What the Bible Says About Tax Collectors

What the Bible Says About Tax Collectors by Myra Kahn Adams for Town Hall

Thanks for joining our study about tax collectors in the Bible. Let’s begin with a musical introduction — a famous song about this profession.

From the Beatles to the Bible, today we focus on the relationship between Jesus and tax collectors. The enemies of Jesus (and even his friends) were critical of how He befriended fellow Jews who were considered traitorous — whose jobs were to squeeze money out of their community on behalf of the Roman authorities. In the process, many tax collectors were corrupt and enriched themselves.

With all that in mind, we examine “The Calling of Matthew” — my NIV Study Bible’s subtitle for this multi-faceted story where Jesus proclaims a significant aspect of His earthly ministry.

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In the book of Matthew 9:1-8 immediately before Jesus met Matthew, Jesus healed a paralytic man. But unstated in the passages that follow is whether or not Matthew saw or heard about this miracle:

“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).

Unanswered is “Why Matthew obeyed Jesus with no hesitation?” Perhaps Matthew had heard about the paralytic’s miraculous healing while “sitting at the tax collector’s booth” and was moved by the Spirit. Maybe, Matthew thought, “Take this job and shove it.” Or, “I am destined to write a self-named first chapter of the world’s bestselling book, and Jesus is my agent.” Whatever Matthew’s reason for obedience, the next verses read:

“While Jesus was having dinner at Matthew’s house, many tax collectors and sinners came and ate with him and his disciples. When the Pharisees saw this, they asked his disciples, ‘Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?’” (Matthew 9:10-11).

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