August 16 I Friday
“As Jesus went on from there, He saw a man named Matthew sitting at the tax collector’s booth. ‘Follow Me,’ He told him, and Matthew got up and followed Him.”
Imagine working in one of the most corrupted while also one of the highest-earning jobs in the city. One day, Jesus comes by your office and tells you to leave everything behind and follow Him. Would we make the choice to simply walk out of the office or continue working? Matthew was faced with this hard decision, but at Jesus’s calling, he knew he needed to leave behind his fraudulent life and follow the One who was able to give Him an honest life.
Matthew worked as a tax collector. Yet, a job as a tax collector was so debauched that it warranted its own separate category. The Gospels make about 18 references to “sinners and tax collectors.” The category of sinners is for people who rob banks, shoot people, tell lies, and beat-up people. But tax collectors are beyond just sinners; they are also seen as traitors. The Jewish people despised tax collectors because at that time, the tax collectors worked for the Romans and collected tax from the Jewish people. The Jewish people did not want to pay tax to Rome, but the tax collectors not only collected their taxes but also added their own commission. As long as these tax collectors turned in the right amount, they could add whatever commission they wanted and most of them were known for that.
Nonetheless, Matthew was invited by Jesus to follow Him. The interesting thing from the Gospels of Mark and Luke is that Matthew is also called “Levi”
(Mark 2:14, Luke 5:27). The Levites were among the aristocracy of Israel throughout the Old Testament. They were not given land of their own because they were devoted only to God and the priesthood. That Matthew was called Levi shows that he was very likely from that aristocratic class of Jewish people.
What about the name “Matthew?” Well, Matthew means “Gift of God.” It may have happened when Jesus met Levi––the tax collector, despised by people––that Jesus possibly said, “You are Levi but you will be Matthew. You will be a Gift of God. Despite all your failings, all your history and all the antagonism there is against you, I want you to know, Levi, that you are a gift.” The marvelous thing about the Lord Jesus Christ is that He takes people like Levi and makes him into a Matthew. No matter our shortcomings or past, God is able to take people like us and make us into a gift of God.
Prayer: Dear God, thank You that You are able to take my lowly, corrupted and sinful life and turn it into a gift. I ask that my life may be a gift to each person that I encounter.