Thoughts for Saturday 20th February 2021

Psalm 25:1-10; Psalm 32; Matthew 9:2-13

Tax Collectors

In the 1980s I helped to run a Church Youth Club in Gorbals Parish Church on a Sunday evening. Ironically known as ‘No Nonsense’, occasionally we’d have a quiz night. Eventually one of our very clever leaders, who was a physicist, built a system for us, but for a couple of years I used to travel to East Kilbride beforehand where a very kind man used to lend us a quiz machine with buzzers and a central control panel, so that whoever was asking the questions knew who’d buzzed first.

That man worked in the Old Centre One building. He was on the Social Club committee there. He could be described, though, as a tax collector – that was his job – and so I used to wince in Church whenever I heard about tax collectors getting a bad press in the Bible. They do, and here in our passage from Matthew is just one of several references there are to people who, while some people might not like paying taxes today, in Jesus’ day these people were considered anathema . . .

. . . which is, though, what gives any reference to them in these stories in Scripture their power. For they were regarded as the lowest of the low. The country was being occupied by a foreign military force, and these people were considered collaborators. They were notoriously corrupt. And so, in the Sermon on the Mount at Matthew 5:46, for example, Jesus asks, ‘Why should God reward you if you love only the people who love you? Even the tax collectors do that?’ Elsewhere in Matthew they are linked with ‘other outcasts’ (11:19), ‘pagans’ (18:7), and also prostitutes (21:31-32).

And I mention Matthew’s Gospel – there are tax collectors in Mark and Luke as well – because as we know from Matthew 9 that Matthew himself, the evangelist, before he became one of Jesus’ twelve disciples, was a tax collector.

So, if you work in the more recent Centre One building today, and thousands do, the first thing to say is that you’re nothing like a Biblical tax collector. But if you do still worry about being one, then do please be cheered; for, it wasn’t just Matthew (or Levi – see Mark 2:14-16, Luke 5:27-30) that Jesus upheld as a paragon for others in New Testament times, but both the tax collector in Jesus’ parable of ‘The Pharisee and the Tax Collector’ (Luke 18:9-14) and Zacchaeus (Luke 19:2), who was a tax collector too, are Biblical heroes as well: just like you!

Let us pray (using a prayer by Bob Hostetler of the Christian Writers Institute):

Father God, thank You
for placing no greater burden on us
than to do justly,
to love mercy,
and to walk humbly with our God.
Grant that I may also fulfil my civic duties,
pay my taxes,
and still provide for my family
while generously supporting Your work in this world,
in Jesus' name,

Amen.


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Page last updated: 20th February 2021 8:57 AM