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. Matthew 9:9 NIV
In our culture, it’s difficult to find an occupation that equates to the despised tax collector from Jesus’ day. There are certainly jobs that are frowned upon, but few, if any, carry the traitorous tag a tax collector did.
Matthew was born a Jew, but once he decided to become a tax collector, he worked for Rome, which means he was considered a traitor by his family, friends, and neighbors. The decision to become a tax collector was certainly not an easy one for Matthew. While on the one hand his income was both sizable and reliable, it required him to endure ridicule and rejection. When Matthew made his career choice, he knew he was trading his reputation and character for financial security.
So it’s safe to say that prior to meeting Jesus, Matthew was stuck between two worlds: He was not a Roman and was certainly not considered a Jew. He was lonely and alienated and without a home. And because of that, Matthew is someone we can all relate to. I imagine you feel like Matthew at times, stuck without a home. Perhaps there is a separation between who you are at work with who you are in your neighborhood, and maybe with who you are in your house and who you are at church.
It’s therefore easy for us to see how Matthew jumps at the chance to follow Jesus. Surely he had heard of Jesus and the stories of miraculous healings. Depending on which commentary you read, he might have already established a relationship with Jesus. Yet all it takes in this moment is two words from Jesus for Matthew to leave behind his life as a tax collector. After Jesus says, “Follow me,” Matthew does just that–he drops everything and literally walks away from everything he knows.
What do you need to walk away from in your life?
Is there an unhealthy relationship or friendship that is getting in the way of your relationship with Christ? Are you visiting websites that you are hiding from your spouse? Are you comparing your real life to the Facebook lives of strangers? Husbands, are you planning your date nights with as much creativity as your client dinners? Have you bought into the lie that being too busy for your family makes you a hard worker or a good provider? What priorities have you lost sight of?
Jesus invites us not into a life of mundane rule-following but instead into a life of abundance. He wants us to taste and to enjoy life. As it says in Isaiah 55, “Come, all you who are thirsty, / come to the waters; / and you who have no money, / come, buy and eat! / Come, buy wine and milk / without money and without cost.”
So here is my encouragement: Know who you are in Christ. Like Matthew, find your home not in your career but in Jesus, even if you think it’s too late.
Take a moment today to be still. Listen.
What is Jesus inviting you into?