by Ivor Powell

Matthew...Who Did What He Could
Ivor Powell
Matthew 9:9; Luke 5:27-29

Matthew, a tax gatherer in Capernaum, was a very wealthy but unpopular man. Most of the customs officials were unscrupulous men who deserved the condemnation of their countrymen, but there is no evidence to prove the son of Levi was an extortionist. Like another of his occupation, he might have been able to say, "The half of my goods I give to the poor; and if I have taken any thing from any man by false accusation, I restore him fourfold" (see Luke 19:8).

Capernaum was one of the most important business centers in Palestine. Caravans from many countries passed through the area, and the Romans, recognizing its commercial importance, assigned one of their high-ranking officers to the district. There were all kinds of laws, and it may be assumed that Matthew was aware of them. Historians tell us there were three main taxes: (1) a tax on land-farmers were required to pay one-tenth of their grain and one fifth of their fruit; (2) a normal income tax, which amounted to one percent of income; and (3) a poll tax, which applied to all males between the ages of fourteen and sixty-five years. In addition, there was a special tax on exported and imported produce, and another that related to wheels and axles of wagons. There were no printed lists of required payments, and unscrupulous men could charge whatever they desired. It was customary for businessmen to pay bills and later recoup their losses by increasing the price of the merchandise.

The nation detested the villainy of the officials, and consequently, all tax gatherers were denied many of the normal rights of citizenship. They were unwelcome in synagogues where their presence was considered a contamination. Matthew, the son of Levi, had become one of these officials, and there could not have been a more unlikely man to become an apostle of Jesus Christ.

The Strange Response . . . Suggesting

". . . a man, named Matthew, sitting at the ...

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