LEAVE IT AND LOSE IT?

Luke 5:27-28, And after these things he went forth, and saw a publican, named Levi, sitting at the receipt of custom: and he said unto him, Follow me. {28} And he left all, rose up, and followed him.

Levi was a tax collector. Back in the day, tax collectors were not paid to do their job. In fact, many of them actually paid to get that non-paying job. Huh? I know it doesn’t make any sense at first sight, but let me explain it to you.

Tax collectors made their living by charging more tax than what Rome actually required. Let’s say that Rome charged 40% tax on produce. So if a produce merchant had a $100 worth of produce, the tax would be $40. But tax collectors always charged more because they had to make a living. Remember. Rome didn’t pay them a dime to do the job. They got their money by charging more tax than what was actually owed or due. To make matters worse, the tax collectors had to pay the higher-up tax officials, called chief publicans, a portion of the tax money because chief publicans weren’t paid either: they made their money by charging the tax collectors beneath them a certain portion of the tax. So the tax collectors would charge the produce merchant 80% and collect $80 tax money: they’d give $40 to Rome, $20 to the chief publican, and the other $20 was theirs to keep. That’s how tax collectors made their money.

The only thing about it was, there were no set rates on how much extra tax should be charged. The greedier the collector, the more tax was charged. Unfortunately, people didn’t have any choice but to pay up. It was either that or else have your goods confiscated and get hauled off to prison. So people paid whatever the tax collector demanded and that’s how the tax collectors got rich. It was quite a lucrative business. And that’s why these tax collectors paid the higher tax officials to become tax collectors.

Anyways, not all tax collectors were dirty crooks and greedy. But, the fact of the matter still remains: Matthew was in all likelihood well off. How else could he throw a big party for Jesus and his publican friends (Luke 5:29)? Matthew has a gravy job and he’s got dough.

Then Jesus comes along one day, calls him to be a disciple, and what does Matthew do? He gets up right away from his tax booth, walks away from it, and follows Jesus. At that moment, he quits his job to become a disciple.

Matthew makes it look easy. So easy that we’re thoughtless about what he really did. He makes a decision on the spot to quit his job and follow Jesus. So he’s got no job. No income. No money coming in. He’s either going to live on his savings, or else he’s going to count on Jesus to take care of his needs. In any case, he’s not getting the piles of dough that he’s accustomed to getting on a daily basis. It’s like money no longer matters to him. He wants Jesus more than wealth. Wow!

How many of us would give up our job to follow Jesus full time as a minister or missionary? I know we’d all say we’d give it up to follow Jesus. But, really, would we? Some of us can’t seem to tithe or give an offering to the Lord on a weekly basis. When we do give, our offerings are a pittance compared to the money we spend on ourselves and our luxuries. Some of us are so tight with money that we don’t support missions, don’t give to the building fund, don’t give to disaster relief. Golly, there’s always someone asking for money, there’s always a need, that we get tired of it and we just don’t give anymore. We’ve got money coming it and we give so little to the Lord. And we say we’ll quit our job, lose it all, to follow our Lord? I find that hard to believe. If we can’t give up a little more of our paycheck to give to the Lord, how in the world are we going to give up the entire paycheck, along with the income and job to boot?

What am I getting at? Definitely no criticism or put-down intended because I’m as guilty as anyone around. All I’m saying is we sometimes say things—we make glowing promises—that we really aren’t in a mindset to follow through on. Matthew made it look easy because, for him, it was easy. He’d already left his dough in his heart and that’s how he didn’t bat an eyelash when he left his job and toll booth behind. I guess if we say we’d leave our job to follow the Lord, we’d better start proving it by giving the Lord more than what we’re already giving. Just saying.

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