The Publican continued . . .
A couple of days ago, I recounted the story of the calling of Matthew the disciple. Except, at the time, he was not a disciple, but rather one of the most despised members of the nation of Israel. In fact, he held one of the most despised occupations in all of the Roman Empire.
Matthew was a tax collector otherwise known as a “publican”. On Wednesday, I explained that publicans were not just the first century equivalent of our present-day, friendly IRS agents. But rather publicans were crony capitalists of the worst kind, using the power of the government to take money right out of the pockets of citizens, making no pretense of offering a product or service.
Despite the shame connected with the job of tax collecting, the job was attractive because it was lucrative. The problem of companionship was easily solved because of the money that successful publicans had to spend. Respectable people hated the publican, but a lot of people still wanted to be around him or some might say, “roll in his crew”. It must have shocked his friends and enemies alike when Christ walked up to Matthew’s tax booth and said, “Follow me” and Matthew immediately stood up and left his post to follow Christ. As far as we know, he never returned to his business.Matthew’s livelihood was over, but his life was just about to begin.
In fact, Matthew as so excited about Christ that he immediately threw a huge party and invited all of his friends so that they too could meet Christ. Of course, Matthew’s friends were not the elite of Jewish society and this caused a stir amongst the Pharisees and other religious leaders who took great pains to avoid interaction with publicans, prostitutes and other people of the worst sort.
Christ knew why he had come to earth and pointed out that he had not come to rub shoulders with individuals who had no need for the Gospel. He said, “I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance.” Only people who have a proper picture of their sin and their lack of standing before God can come to him for salvation. Matthew’s sin was obvious, he could not run from it, so he was completely ready when Christ offered to make him a disciple.
How about you? Would you leave your job and take a major financial risk in order to follow Christ? Would you risk all of your worldly possessions to bring souls to Christ? We talk a lot about money here at Gather Little by Little and we all say that money is not the most important thing in our lives. If you accept that truth, what is the most important thing in your life and what are you doing to live out that truth?
Photo by cliff1066