13 Once again Jesus went out beside the lake. A large crowd came to him, and he began to teach them. 14 As he walked along, he saw Levi son of Alphaeus sitting at the tax collector’s booth. “Follow me,” Jesus told him, and Levi got up and followed him.
15 While Jesus was having dinner at Levi’s house, many tax collectors and sinners were eating with him and his disciples, for there were many who followed him. 16 When the teachers of the law who were Pharisees saw him eating with the sinners and tax collectors, they asked his disciples: “Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?”
17 On hearing this, Jesus said to them, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”
This is one of the most abused passages in Scripture. The point is not that Godliness allows us to hang out in sinful places and do sinful things. Jesus was there to show them love AND to call them out of darkness into light. Jesus makes it clear that they are “sick.” He is the Doctor. If I go to the golf course, pick up with some strangers to play a round, and my new friends have several beers while we are playing, I do not preach to them. Neither do I get drunk with them. If asked why I do not want a beer, I tell them I do not drink. If asked why not, I tell them a lot of bad things have happened in my life when I was drinking so I gave it up.
I remember when I was on staff at one of the largest churches in the world. The thinking was that we needed to be hip and show the world that we were not legalistic. We needed to just go hang out and drink some beers! I now work at a state university with 17,000 students. When one of them is bombing out of school, it is often because of too much partying (alcohol). Whenever a girl gets sexually assaulted, alcohol was almost always involved. I mean seriously, the last thing any young person needs is to go to church and be encouraged to drink alcohol. The entire world economy seems to be based on alcohol consumption and sexual gratification. The whole idea is like throwing a steak on the floor and thinking you need to convince your dog to eat it.
Jesus went to dark places to shine His light. Jesus ministered to all kinds of people in all kinds of places. You could put a sign in your church parking lot announcing, “FREE BEER this Sunday!,” and you would have a huge crowd, but that is not what this passage is about.