Men of the Bible
His name means: "Gift of Yahweh"
His work: Matthew was a tax collector who was awarded by Herod Antipas a contract to extract tariffs from his own people. His character: A successful businessman whose encounter with Jesus profoundly changed his life and vocation forever. His sorrow: Alienation, first from his own people because of his profession and then from religious leaders because of his vocation. His triumph: A carefully organized, accurate, and convincing apologetic for the veracity of Jesus Christ as the Messiah. Key Scriptures: Matthew 9
A Look at the Man
Matthew was good at making money. But there was a downside to getting rich as a tax collector in Palestine: People hated you for it. It made it hard to have any friends besides tax collectors or other ne'er-do-wells. He had learned to ignore the looks, to pretend he didn't hear the epithets—to conclude that these were the necessary costs of doing business.
Tax collectors were answerable to no one. There were no regulations to guide their procedures. Whatever they could extract from the people—over and above what the authorities required—was theirs to keep. It wasn't that Matthew didn't care about people, it was just that he cared more about his own prosperity. No wonder he was hated.
Matthew knew this when he chose his profession. In fact, in his writing, Matthew grouped tax collectors with prostitutes in social rank. But he was willing to pay this price for financial success.
But in spite of his choice of occupation and his pleasure with its material benefits, everything changed the day Jesus invited Matthew to be one of his disciples. And the wisdom of following the Master was confirmed in Matthew's heart the night Jesus won the affection of his friends.
Matthew knew that his decision was one he could never withdraw. He had set his life on a new course that could not be changed. Unlike the other disciples who had temporarily left their fishing nets—and could return to them at a later time—he knew it would be difficult for him to go back to his tax collecting. But Matthew was not halfhearted about his decisions. He had paid a heavy price among his countrymen when he chose tax collecting; now he would be asked to do the same in following Jesus.
Imagine how Matthew's transformation became a confirmation of the power and the authenticity of the Messiah's message. "Have you seen Matthew recently?" Jews would say to each other in the marketplace. "Something has happened to him."
Matthew was swept away with Jesus the man, the messenger, the Messiah. His gospel includes more references to Old Testament prophecy than any other. This truly was the one the prophets had foretold. And his thorough coverage of Jesus' most important sermon reminds us that Matthew was awed by the power of the Savior's words.
Very little is recorded in the Gospels as to Matthew's specific activities. Except for his invitation for Jesus to join him and his friends for dinner, we read of no conversation or dialogue. But this does not diminish Matthew's prominence during the days of Jesus' ministry on earth. For nothing speaks more profoundly than the testimony of a changed life—especially one that makes waves in the marketplace.Reflect On: Matthew 9:9–13 Praise God: For his transforming power. Offer Thanks: For the impact that the message of Jesus Christ has on those who are willing to believe and follow the Messiah. Confess: An unwillingness to turn from our drive for economic success and to submit to the Spirit’s direction—to resist being inconvenienced by the call of the Savior. Ask God: To come to your workplace—your tax-collector’s booth. Ask him to repeat the same words he spoke to Matthew, and ask him to give you the courage to respond as Matthew did.