Sad man

You Just Can’t Win

Sad manCan’t Win at…

Do you ever feel that you just can’t win?

That no matter what you do, someone is going to be unhappy?

Michelle is familiar with a few of these stories, but I’ve felt that way quite a bit at work. Not with my boss specifically, but as an example…early this year one bigwig sent an even bigger bigwig a note asking a question and saying that I was doing a “fabulous” job. The word “fabulous” was literally used.

My Director needed an update about the overall discussion…so I forwarded it to him thinking, “He’ll see what bigwig #1 thought and that’ll be good for me.”

Well, I’m not entirely sure what my boss thought, but I did find out that his boss was very unhappy because he felt I stepped outside my bounds.

I do my job in a way that the bigwig I am specifically leant to is super-duper happy and…

Crying womanI just can’t win. And trust me, that’s not the only example. Luckily I am not one to give up, but I have to admit I am having a hard time getting past my sense that I just can’t win.

Now…your experience might be in a different area. Perhaps a relationship where no matter what you do it bothers the other person.

You just can’t win.

Or at school, where no matter how hard you try your teacher isn’t satisfied.

You just can’t win.

That’s a frustrating and depressing situation to be in, isn’t it?

[ These are quick sermon notes…not cleaned-up…and missing the “extras” that come out in the audio (which is available here). All quotes are from the English Standard Version unless otherwise noted. ]

Sinners and Tax Collectors

Temporarily putting that discussion on hold, let’s switch gears and look at some interactions our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, had with people in his day, starting with Luke 19:1-10:

19 He entered Jericho and was passing through. 2 And behold, there was a man named Zacchaeus. He was a chief tax collector and was rich. 3 And he was seeking to see who Jesus was, but on account of the crowd he could not, because he was small in stature. 4 So he ran on ahead and climbed up into a sycamore tree to see him, for he was about to pass that way. 5 And when Jesus came to the place, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, hurry and come down, for I must stay at your house today.” 6 So he hurried and came down and received him joyfully. 7 And when they saw it, they all grumbled, “He has gone in to be the guest of a man who is a sinner.” 8 And Zacchaeus stood and said to the Lord, “Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor. And if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I restore it fourfold.” 9 And Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, since he also is a son of Abraham. 10 For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.”

What stands out about Zacchaeus in these verses?

That he was short? 🙂

What was Zacchaeus’ job? [Chief tax collector.]

Did people back then like tax collectors?

No! To help prove that, let’s look at Matthew 5:46:

46 For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same?

Not a terribly positive comparison, eh? Basically it is using “tax collectors” synonymously with “really bad people.” It could say, “For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even really bad people do the same?”

If you check out commentaries about Matthew 5:46 they’ll note things like:

5:46 tax collectors. Disloyal Israelites hired by the Romans to tax other Jews for personal profit. They became symbols for the worst kind of people.1

That was from The MacArthur Study Bible. The ESV Study Bible states:

5:46—47 In Palestine, tax collectors were representatives of the Roman governing authorities. Their tendency to resort to extortion made them despised and hated by their own people (cf. Luke 19:8)2

Extortion. Kids, what is extortion?

My Mac’s dictionary says it is “the practice of obtaining something, especially money, through force or threats.”

Like someone getting you to give them your desert at school by threatening to beat you up if you didn’t.

Extortion isn’t good.

To throw in one more description, The NET Bible First Edition Notes says”

55 sn The tax collectors would bid to collect taxes for the Roman government and then add a surcharge, which they kept. Since tax collectors worked for Rome, they were viewed as traitors to their own people and were not well liked.3

Disloyal. Symbols for the worst kind of people. Extorters. Traitors.

Did the Jews like tax collectors?

Yet Jesus chose to stay at a tax collector’s house. The house of someone who even implicitly admitted stealing by promising he’d restore fourfold anything he defrauded people out of.

Staying with tax collectors, let’s go to Matthew 9:9:

9 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.

Wait! It was bad enough that Jesus went to Zacchaeus’ house…but what did he do with another tax collector, Matthew?

He made him one of the apostles!

Now, we saw in the first passages we read that people weren’t impressed by Jesus hanging out with tax collectors. Remember “And when they saw it, they all grumbled, ‘He has gone in to be the guest of a man who is a sinner.'” (Luke 19:7)? But, it gets better…well, worse…after discussing John the Baptist, in Luke 7:31-35 it quotes Jesus as saying:

31 “To what then shall I compare the people of this generation, and what are they like? 32 They are like children sitting in the marketplace and calling to one another,

” ‘We played the flute for you, and you did not dance;

we sang a dirge, and you did not weep.’

33 For John the Baptist has come eating no bread and drinking no wine, and you say, ‘He has a demon.’ 34 The Son of Man has come eating and drinking, and you say, ‘Look at him! A glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’ 35 Yet wisdom is justified by all her children.”

And it was reading through those versus as I read the Bible in one year it first hit me that I should do a sermon about “You Just Can’t Win.”

John is basically a hermit in the wilderness, He has a demon!

Jesus does the opposite and is called “a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!”

Jesus just couldn’t win.

Oh, and by the way…check this out in Luke 11:14-16:

14 Now he was casting out a demon that was mute. When the demon had gone out, the mute man spoke, and the people marveled. 15 But some of them said, “He casts out demons by Beelzebul, the prince of demons,” 16 while others, to test him, kept seeking from him a sign from heaven.

So…if John doesn’t hang-out with sinful humans…he is demon possessed. Jesus rub shoulders with sinners and heals them and…He is accused of using the power of the devil.

Jesus just couldn’t win.

And why couldn’t He win?

Because they weren’t looking to learn the truth about Jesus, they were looking for a way to condemn him. Mark 3:1-6 shares this incredible narrative:

3 Again he entered the synagogue, and a man was there with a withered hand. 2 And they watched Jesus, to see whether he would heal him on the Sabbath, so that they might accuse him. 3 And he said to the man with the withered hand, “Come here.” 4 And he said to them, “Is it lawful on the Sabbath to do good or to do harm, to save life or to kill?” But they were silent. 5 And he looked around at them with anger, grieved at their hardness of heart, and said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” He stretched it out, and his hand was restored. 6 The Pharisees went out and immediately held counsel with the Herodians against him, how to destroy him.

Think of it! They were trying to catch Jesus…egad!…healing on the Sabbath! (“To see whether he would heal him on the Sabbath, so that they might accuse him.”)

And when He did, what was their reaction?!

“The Pharisees went out and immediately held counsel with the Herodians against him, how to destroy him.”

They wanted to catch Him.

They wanted to kill Him.

Have you ever heard the comment that it isn’t being paranoid if they are really out to kill you?

They were out to get Jesus!

Jesus just couldn’t win.

By the way, it so happens after I decided on this topic there was a bit of a funny thing that came up on a web page I visit daily called Ace of Spades HQ. It was titled, “Media Headlines If Jesus Ran As The GOP Nominee” and some of it’s 140 characters or less suggestions were:

If Jesus Christ was a Republican the MSM would characterize him as a weak loser who ditched his followers in the end.

Jesus Christ seen yelling, flipping over tables and chasing priests. Does he have the temperament to have his finger on the nuclear button?

Chilling: Jesus heals blind person. Undercover investigation reveals no license to practice medicine/malpractice insurance.

Disturbing pictures show Jesus’ self serving mountain speech disturbed nearby nesting baby bald eagles.

Investigative report shows Jesus Christ very friendy [sic] with wild, bug eating cousin who routinely attempts to drown citizens in a river.

Revealed: Christ’s Cross Not Made From Reclaimed Wood. Did Jesus Ignore The Chance To Make A Statement About Climate Change?

From carpenter to fisherman. What does Jesus’ obsession with classically masculine jobs say about his problem with women?

Fact Check: Pontius Pilate is correct that hand washing does indeed improve public health. We give dirty, smelly Jesus 4 pinocchios.

Healer or groper? Did Jesus routinely touch poor and desperate women without consent?4

Now, that was all in good “current events” humor :-)…but we already saw…and could quickly find other “unfunny” examples…of how…

Jesus just couldn’t win.

You Just Can’t Win

Let’s turn to the “life application phase” of this sermon.

Jesus just couldn’t win. How about you? Can you win with the world?

Before trying to answer that, let’s hear from Paul…and from Jesus again…

14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. 15 Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. 16 Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight. 17 Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. 18 If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all (Romans 12:14-18).

18 “If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. 19 If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. 20 Remember the word that I said to you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. If they kept my word, they will also keep yours (John 15:18-20).

Paul says, “If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.”

Jesus says, “If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you.”

Doesn’t sound terribly possible then, does it?

Now, I’m not talking about the “I just can’t win” stuff I mentioned at the beginning around work on relationships. It can intersect with those, but I’m talking in the religious context with the world.

Jesus is our example. We can only hope to be one tenth of one tenth of one tenth of one percent as righteous as he was, yet…

Jesus just couldn’t win.

And, in this world, those who hate Jesus will also hate you. They only love their own. (“If you were of the world, the world would love you as it’s own…”

You were chosen out of the world, so they will hate you. (“…But I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you.”)

You just can’t win.

Don’t Fall Into Their Trap

As a quick, connected aside…please be careful not to fall into one of the world’s biggest traps, in my opinion, for Christians.

Another Christian says or does something stupid and it seems all of Christendom has to pile on and condemn that person.

You may think that this somehow ingratiates you with non-Christians. That by showing you too are offended it’ll develop inroads with them.

I tend to believe that they’ll just use you to “take out” other Christians…and once they’ve been successful at that level…

They will come for you.

Now, don’t get me wrong. We should condemn Satanic impostors of Christianity like the Westboro Baptist Church…and I’m sure there are plenty of other people and organizations we should also visibly and vocally oppose.

But, avoid joining the mob mentality when a brother or sister appears to have sinned.

34 A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. 35 By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:34-35).

Instead of joining the mob, love your errant fellow member of the body of Christ. If you aren’t there for them in their time of need, who will be there for you in yours?

And it isn’t Jesus’ request. It is His commandment to love each other as He loved us.

Before heading into the last part of this talk, I want share another couple verses I ran into this week reading through the Bible in one year:

53 As he went away from there, the scribes and the Pharisees began to press him hard and to provoke him to speak about many things, 54 lying in wait for him, to catch him in something he might say (Luke 11:53-54).

You cannot satisfy the world. They will do to you what they did to Jesus. They will provoke you to speak many things…and, unlike Jesus, you will…sooner or later…say something wrong/stupid/etcetera. Even if you are really, really good at bridling your tongue and controlling your actions…sooner or later…you’ll say or do something they can quickly twist to go after you.

If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Leave it at that, because…

Please God

You just can’t win with the world.

But you can with God.

Contrary to many popular and historical pictures of the Father, as a Christian He doesn’t look at you as some gross, putrid pile of manure that He holds His nose via magical Jesus nose clips to allow you in heaven.

He sees you as His child.

And although it is true that the only reason we’ll be in heaven is because of Jesus and His righteousness, you can please the Father just like a child can please a parent. For example:

20 And he who had received the five talents came forward, bringing five talents more, saying, ‘Master, you delivered to me five talents; here, I have made five talents more.’ 21 His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.’ 22 And he also who had the two talents came forward, saying, ‘Master, you delivered to me two talents; here, I have made two talents more.’ 23 His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master’ (Matthew 25:20-23).

When you get to see Jesus in person, wouldn’t you like to hear those words, “Well done, good and faithful servant”?

Yes, all the glory to God for the things we do right…it is because of Him…but we can please God.

Jesus said if we saw Him we saw the Father (John 14:9), and I don’t know how anybody can read the gospels and think that Jesus never smiled when He saw growth in His followers.

You cannot please the world. Not even Jesus could.

You can please God.

You just can’t win with the world.

Thanks to Jesus, you can win with God.

24 Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. 25 For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. 26 For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul? 27 For the Son of Man is going to come with his angels in the glory of his Father, and then he will repay each person according to what he has done (Matthew 16:24-27).

If you gain the world’s approval, you will lose the Lord’s.

You cannot please the world. Not even Jesus could. But, that’s okay, because…

You can please God.

You just can’t win with the world.

Thanks to Jesus, you can win with God. Praise God for that fact!

Make Jesus smile. 🙂


1MacArthur, J., Jr. (Ed.). (1997). The MacArthur Study Bible (electronic ed., p. 1402). Nashville, TN: Word Pub.

2Crossway Bibles. (2008). The ESV Study Bible (p. 1831). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

3Biblical Studies Press. (2006). The NET Bible First Edition Notes (Mt 5:46). Biblical Studies Press.

4Media Headlines If Jesus Ran As The GOP Nominee. (2016, October 24). Retrieved October 26, 2016, from

Published by


Alan is an ordinary guy, living in a small, high plains Colorado town...and humbled to be a minister of God...

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.