The times & TMZ

December 18, 2019

I need to start off by saying, I can’t imagine what it would be like to be sitting at a table at my favorite restaurant and have people gawking and snapping pictures on their phones. Worse yet, to have them approach me during a romantic meal with my lovely wife and ask me for an autograph or to take a selfie with them. Perhaps even more annoying, would be to have to navigate throngs of people while driving my car, and then having to deal with photographers and random “reporters” every time I try and get out of my car to walk to where I need to be. Like I said, I can’t even imagine what it would be like. Not many of us can. Sure, it’s the price that comes with fame – but it still sounds  highly unpleasant. 

Every now and then, late at night on a weekend, I’ll turn on the TV and up will pop a show you may have heard of. Perhaps, it used to be just a show, and now it’s more like an empire. It’s called TMZ. Until I looked it up thirty seconds ago, I didn’t know it, but TMZ stands for “thirty mile zone,” a reference to the area surrounding several studios in Hollywood. It would be fair to say however, that the company no longer limits its interactions with people to that small area of southern California. Instead, they make it their business (and in turn ours), to follow and investigate the lives of famous people, all around the globe – and share their dirtiest and juiciest secrets. If someone famous is having a bad day, you can bet that someone from TMZ is trying to find out what is going on and why – and that they plan on letting the rest of us know about it. Between their webpage, twitter feed, Instagram and Facebook stories, and word of mouth – there really isn’t too much going on that we don’t or can’t know about. It’s pretty sad but true. Real people’s lives are on display and under scrutiny, and the whole world is watching.  

What’s kind of sick is how into all of it many of us can get. The horrifying truth is, if there wasn’t money in gossip and scandal, TMZ wouldn’t be a thing. It has to be lucrative or they wouldn’t keep doing it. So what is it that makes us so interested in other people’s failings and misgivings? Why do we seem to be “glued to the tube” in search of information about how others are throwing their lives away? The answer I think says more about us, than it does about them – and it comes in the form of two simple words – jealousy and fear. 

There are a few stories in the Bible about Jesus that seem like they would’ve made the front page of the TMZ tabloids. Most of them involve Him having dinner with people others think He shouldn’t have. Just for fun, lets take a look at one of them. 

Matthew 9:9–11 (ESV) “As Jesus passed on from there, he saw a man called Matthew sitting at the tax booth, and he said to him, “Follow me.” And he rose and followed him.

And as Jesus reclined at table in the house, behold, many tax collectors and sinners came and were reclining with Jesus and his disciples. And when the Pharisees saw this, they said to his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?””

The “paparazzi” are standing outside taking notice of the riff-raff that Jesus is dining with. You can almost hear their words; religious leaders and teachers shouldn’t make a habit of hanging out with the world’s most hated demographic (tax collectors were viewed as traitors against their own people), and those willing to assume the role of well known sinner. After all, there were plenty of people who spent their time preaching and teaching each day. There were those who’s lives had been dedicated to following the law and pointing out where others were failing. These were the types of people who deserved the affection of someone like Jesus.

If you ask me, that sounds like jealousy talking. People wishing they could have the money and the power, or the fame and the fun that these other people seemed to be having. People jealous of the way that these “tax collectors & sinners” don’t seem to care about what other people think of them, and how they just go on living life to what seems to be its fullest. And people jealous of the attention that Jesus is paying to someone else, when they feel as though they have done everything they can to make sure He would actually pay attention to them. They wish and want for His attention and affection. 

It also sounds like fear. It sounds like they’re afraid that maybe they’re missing out. That they’ve gotten it all wrong. That life could be more glamorous and they are missing out on the getting what is good. It sounds like they might be afraid that after all their “hard work” and “righteous living” that God is going to forget about them and leave them behind, for the sake of those who don’t deserve Him anyway. And so, they stand outside the door, staring in at the scandal, whispering to each other in the languages of jealousy and fear that we know all too well. 

“Just look at Him. In there with those people.”

“Doesn’t He know who they are?” 

“A real person of faith wouldn’t be seen anywhere near them

They’re going to cost Him everything.”

But apparently they weren’t staying quite far enough away. Jesus hears them, and His answer let’s everyone know just where His priorities are; 

Matthew 9:12–13 (ESV)

But when he heard it, he said, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. Go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice.’ For I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.”

It seems that Jesus doesn’t care about scandal. He doesn’t care about who He’s “supposed” to hang out with. He isn’t interested in keeping a bunch of religious rules or making the “right” people happy. Instead, he’s all about stepping into the midst of the mess to be with the people who need Him most. And I think He might want the same from us. 

You and I get sucked in by scandals. We see missteps and mistakes, and we’re tempted to feel better about ourselves, and laugh at the loss of others. But Jesus sees through the scandal and into the reality of the situations. He sees people, with real problems, in their real lives – problems He can help fix, and lives He wants to save. It’s my goal as a pastor, and a follower of Jesus, to do my best to stop seeing the saucy and sultry details of Hollywood stories, or the junk in the life of the family down the road – and instead see need of the people involved and try to step in and make it better. Offer grace and forgiveness when people least expect it. Starting now, that’s the kind of scandal I want to be involved in. 

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