Thursday, February 21, 2013

Lent: Matthew, tax collector turned evangelist

Matthew 9:9-13
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No one ever asked Matthew why he would choose to give up unlimited income potential to follow a stranger with no home, no bed, and no job. The Pharisees dismiss him and all those with him as unworthy of their attention, of their concern, of their guidance. Already they are criticizing Jesus, not for who He is or what He is doing but for the people He is focusing on. Yet He never lets their criticism stop Him from loving those no one else is willing to love.
Matthew had every opportunity to choose how much money he would make. Tax collectors were despised in part because they were allowed to charge the people whatever they wanted to. Anything they collected above the amount they were required to give the Romans was theirs to keep, so their income was whatever they chose to charge people above and beyond the required taxes. Yet this life wasn't enough for Matthew. When Jesus offered him a different option, he quickly gave up the money he was making for a life of sacrifice and eventual martyrdom. How many people around us seem to have everything they could possibly want: a really nice home, a bigger income than we're making, expensive cars, and expensive lifestyles, yet would gladly trade it all to walk with Jesus if we simply gave them the opportunity? We cannot judge others by their financial means: that person as being too wealthy to want Christianity, that other person as too poor to be a real asset to the Church. Jesus welcomes them all, so we need to also. They may not know that His arms are open to them until we tell them. Inside where we cannot see them they may be just as eager for a life transformation as Matthew was.

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