NASHVILLE (BP) – This weekly Bible study appears in Baptist Press in a partnership with Lifeway Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention. Through its Leadership and Adult Publishing team, Lifeway publishes Sunday School curricula and additional resources for all age groups.

This week’s Bible study is adapted from the MasterWork curriculum.

Bible Passage: Matthew 9:9-13

Discussion Questions:

  • Do you see yourself as more of a confrontational person or a bend-over-backward-to-avoid-confrontation person? Explain.
  • What does it take to love sinners well without condemning them or condoning their sin?
  • In relating to a “sinner,” are you more likely to keep silent about biblical principles or to be sure the person knows where he or she fails to meet those principles? Explain.

Food for thought with comments from Gregg Matte*:

It seems we are prone to extremes, often reflected in our New Year’s resolutions.

Want to lose some weight? Chances are we will go on a restrictive diet we will have difficulty sticking with. Starting an exercise regime? Watch out that you don’t overdo it the first day or two and give up because you’re too sore. Taking up a new hobby? Don’t invest too much in all the accoutrements of the hobby until you see whether you’ll actually enjoy and do the hobby. Balance proves challenging. We tend toward the all-or-nothing approach rather than the tight-rope-balance approach.

But pastor and author Gregg Matte stresses that to be difference-makers in the world, we must learn to live in the tension of balance. Or, as he puts it, we must “dine in diversity” while also speaking with clarity. Matthew 9 records Jesus’ call of Matthew the tax collector (v. 9), followed immediately by an account of Jesus dining with “many tax collectors and sinners” (v. 10). Jesus was eating with diversity – those who were quite different from Him – and the religious elite (the Pharisees) were not pleased. But Jesus acknowledged the lack of righteousness of those with whom he ate.

On the other hand, Luke 7 tells of a meal Jesus had with one of those religious elite (vv. 36-50). During the meal, a “sinner” woman approached Jesus, washing His feet with her tears, drying them with her hair and anointing them with perfume she had brought with her. When the Pharisee objected, Jesus spoke with clarity, pointing out the host’s insulting lack of hospitality toward Jesus. Jesus also acknowledged the woman’s sin and offered her forgiveness.

Jesus was willing to eat with those seen as righteous and with those seen as sinful. But His willingness to fellowship with everyone did not cause Him to compromise His principles. He spoke with clarity both to those who knew they were sinful and to those who thought they were righteous. To be difference-makers, we too must be prepared to dine with diversity while still speaking the truth with clarity.

*Gregg Matte is senior pastor of Houston’s First Baptist Church.


MasterWork is an ongoing Bible study curriculum based on works from a variety of renowned authors and offers pertinent, practical messages that adults will find uplifting and enriching. The list of authors and their books to be studied in upcoming months can be found at Lifeway.com/masterwork.

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