Why Jesus said, “Treat Them As You Would a Pagan or Tax Collector!”

“If they still refuse to listen, tell it to the church; and if they refuse to listen even to the church, treat them as you would a pagan or a tax collector.” (Matthew 18:17 NIV)

So much for Jesus not talking about sin–as least that’s the mantra that some are using to justify their continual sin. “Jesus just said to love and judge not.” By the time I finish with the “whys” Jesus said something, hopefully those who are characteristically unbelievers, will have a better understanding of what Jesus said and why.

As with all other Scriptures–this pertains to those in the Body of Believers. Perhaps that should have been made clear in the beginning–The Bible is addressed to Believers, not the unbelieving who won’t believe it anyway. This is God’s way of keeping those who claim to belong to Him, on the right track.

Therefore, the passages that follow are meant for those who Believe–that’s who Jesus was talking to–not the unbelieving.

Matthew 18:15–If your brother or sister sins, go and point out their fault, just between the two of you. If they listen to you, you have won them over.

Matthew 18:16–But if they will not listen, take one or two others along, so that every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.

And then we get to our scripture reference for today in verse 17. Jesus is telling His followers that if they know a brother or sister in the church who has fallen to temptation and sinned, in order to expose the darkness to the light, they should let them know, they are in sin and should repent. If the person in sin refuses to listen to the first person, who’s trying to keep the matter private, they should bring two or three more people to talk to them in hopes of convincing them to cease living in sin. If they refuse to talk to the “delegation” if you will, then the matter should be brought before the entire church and if after being admonished by the church, they still refuse to listen, then they (the sinner) should be treated like a pagan or tax collector, no longer considered a brother or sister in The Lord.

Sounds a bit harsh? Sound like “love” to you? It is harsh, and it is love because where there is love, there is also correction, and rebuke as well as compassion and mercy.

Most Believers understand this and abide by it–at least in some churches or rather denominations. The church Jesus references is the entire Body of Believers–not just one denomination. But for many, the church is simply a building to which some go on a regular basis, pretty much like those who frequently patronize the local bar, or strip-club–the benefit of going to either is about the same–there is none; especially for church-goers (those just going to the building) who don’t know God.

If a person doesn’t know God, doesn’t know or understand God’s Word, then why are they wasting their time going to a building? God is not fooled. And they will understand they received no benefit when they stand before Him and they hear Him say, “Depart from me you workers of iniquity. I never knew you,” (Luke 13:27 paraphrased)

As anyone can see, Jesus didn’t sugarcoat truth when He spoke it and anyone who thinks we should sugarcoat truth, doesn’t know Jesus and they really should get into The Word, know what He said and the conditions under which He said it. Perhaps then, at least all the Believers will be on the same page. 

More of what Jesus said and why, next time!