It’s that time of year again.
The day we love to hate.
The chickens have come home to roost. The fat lady sang. It’s time to pay your uncle. The taxman cometh.Why did they pick a beautiful day in Spring to spring this awful obligation on us? Is there a more detested government agency than the tax folks. And how about their tax code? According to a Political Calculations blog the agency that determines how much in taxes you will pay operates from a tax code 71,684 pages long. Quite a leap from the original 1913 tax code, which was 400 pages.
It is probably safe to say most of us don’t like to pay taxes. And what we pay we think is too much. All due to the taxman.
Taxmen have never been popular.
Matthew was a taxman and a Jew. In Jesus’ day they called tax collectors “publicans”. Matthew bought a franchise to collect taxes for the Romans. They needed lots of money to support and maintain their empire.
After publicans collected the taxes Rome required they were free to levy and collect any other tax revenues they could. And they got to keep all they extorted from the Jewish people.The publicans taxed axles, wheels, animals, roads and much more.
The Jewish people despised tax collectors, and Matthew.
In his book, Twelve Ordinary Men, a book about Jesus’ disciples, John MacArthur wrote,
“He (a Jewish tax collector) was the worst of the worst. No self-respecting Jew in his right mind would ever choose to be a tax collector. He had effectively cut himself off not only from his own people, but also from his God. After all, since he was banned from the synagogue and forbidden to sacrifice and worship in the temple, he was worse off religiously than a Gentile.”¹
MacArthur said tax collectors were on the same level socially as harlots. His occupation made him a traitor to the nation, a social pariah, the rankest of the rank.²
Matthew was no doubt wealthy by the day’s standards. And we know from the book that bears his name that he was well versed in Scripture. In the gospel he would later write to the Jews, Matthew quotes the Old Testament 99 times–more times than Mark, Luke and John combined.
This tax collector’s life was transformed in an instant when he met Jesus. Let’s pick up Matthew’s story in Mark:
And He went out again by the seashore; and all the people were coming to Him and He was teaching them. As He passed by, He saw Levi (Matthew) the son of Alphaeus sitting in the tax booth, and He said to him “Follow Me!” And he got up and followed Him.
‘And it happened that He was reclining at the table of his (Matthew’s) house and many tax collectors and sinners were dining with Jesus and His disciples; for there were many of them, and they were following Him. When the scribes and Pharisees saw that He was eating with the sinners and tax collectors, they said to His disciples, ‘Why is He eating and drinking with tax collectors and sinners?’
‘And hearing this, Jesus said to them, ‘It is not those who are healthy who need a physician, but those who are sick; I did not come to save the righteous (the hypocritical, religious-acting Pharisees and scribes) but sinners.’ ” Mark 2:13-17.
What amazes me about Matthew’s taxman story is this verse, “As He passed by, He saw Levi (Matthew) the son of Alphaeus sitting in the tax booth, and He said to him “Follow Me!” And he got up and followed Him.” Mark 2:14. Matthew got up IMMEDIATELY and followed Jesus. No hesitation. No questions. No qualifying. He just followed Jesus.
MacArthur said of Matthew, “Matthew stands as a vivid reminder that the Lord often chooses the most despicable people of this world, redeems them, gives them new hearts, and uses them in remarkable ways.”³
Jesus wants to use you. To write a gospel? No. But maybe to give up something valuable, like Matthew did, to serve Him. To surrender those worldly possessions you hold onto so tightly. To surrender your life to Him. To turn your life around. To make yourself available to serve Him in any way He wants when He calls.
He will call. And He will equip you with everything you need to do what He asks you to do.
What will you say when Jesus says, “Follow Me”?
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On this day we have to fork over our hard-earned dough, remember who owns it all. May God richly bless you today.
¹Twelve Ordinary Men,©2002 by John MacArthur; published by W Publishing Group, a division of Thomas Nelson, Inc., Nashville, Tn.; p.155 ²ibid. pg. 153 ³ibid. pg. 156