Loving Those Who Love Us

By Lee Jones

.:Matthew 5:46-48:.

If you spend any time online, you’re bound to encounter this phrase...TAXATION IS THEFT.

While you could debate that in the US until the cows come home, in Jesus’ day this statement would not only be the predominant opinion, but would be immediately verifiable. 

Jesus is making a point that His people will show grace even to those they don’t especially like. Our natural inclination is to be nice to those who are already nice to me, almost like bestowing our good opinion is payment for those who make us happy. 

To strike a mortal blow to the heart of that idea, Jesus ties it to tax collectors, by far the lowest of the low in first-century society. The Roman authorities would commission tax collectors to take the requisite payment from Caesar’s citizens, but also allowed them to collect as much as they wanted over the tax amount, and pocket the difference. 

While we were dead in our sins and transgressions, cosmic traitors against the Thrice Holy God, He showed us mercy by sending Christ to live righteously, die horribly, and rise victoriously for the sake of His children.

This was tantamount to treason when a Jew became a tax collector, and would bankrupt his own brothers and sisters in the name of Caesar and for his own gain. A great example of the tax collector is the world-famous Zacchaeus.

Luke 19 describes him as a “chief tax collector and he was rich.” And he had gotten rich by bilking money from his neighbors in the name of the government_. When he sees Jesus, after climbing into the famous sycamore tree, he announces his plan to make restitution for his crimes; he will repay every man back four times what he took.  It was said as an argument against Jesus that he ate with tax collectors and sinners. (Matthew 9:11, Mark 2:16). 

Back to the Sermon on the Mount. Even tax collectors, the scum of the earth to His hearers, love those who love them. Jesus’ followers will do better than that. The Gentiles even know to treat their own family well. Instead we are to be perfect like our Father. 

Is Jesus laying down the law? No way. We know God is perfect, there is no sin in Him, and in the context of this passage, His perfection works out in a particular way. In spite of who we are and how bad we are, God “says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion” (Romans 9:15).

While we were dead in our sins and transgressions, cosmic traitors against the Thrice Holy God, He showed us mercy by sending Christ to live righteously, die horribly, and rise victoriously for the sake of His children. 

Because God loved His own enemies first (I John 4:19) we are free to love those who hate and curse us, as Jesus said earlier in the Beatitudes. It’s never bad to hear the same good teaching multiple times. We have a tendency to forget, especially if we don’t initially like what we’re being told. But by God’s grace, He equips His children to not merely obey His word, but to delight in it.

Glory to God alone. 



Lee Jones