Influence: How Jesus Changed Matthew's Life
By John Braland
President, IMF Board of Directors
Matthew was an average kid who came from good stock. His father Alphaeus gave his son the birth name Levi because he came from the tribe of Levi. They were the priestly line who were supposed to live holy lives and live in the temple.
Why Matthew chose to work for the Romans as a tax collector we will never know, but instead of being joined with the Lord, Matthew chose to join with the Romans and collect taxes.
Matthew’s call to follow Jesus came in the middle of a workday. The tax collector outcast was called by Christ himself to a better occupation, to better wealth than what silver and gold could buy, and to serve a better king than Caesar.
This is the only detail we are given: Jesus invited him to follow, and Matthew followed. He gave up his occupation, his reputation, and his income to follow a more worthy king. He did it without reservation or excuse. Matthew felt the tug on his heart and he was moved to action.
The calling of Matthew demonstrates that when God extends an invitation, we should accept it. Have you ever felt God tugging on your heart? Did you respond with action or did you just shrug it off? It might not be clear yet what exactly God is calling you to do, but his invitation to live a better life is always on your calendar. He is always inviting you to live a holy life, a life of love, grace, and forgiveness.
“Then Jesus said to his disciples, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must give up your own way, take up your cross, and follow me.” Matthew 16:18
Very shortly after Matthew’s invitation to follow Christ he threw a party. He wanted everybody to know that he was a new creation in Christ, as Paul would later say the old has gone and the new has come.
Matthew invited a ton of his old friends who he knew as a tax collector and some of his new friends who he knew because of Jesus. The people who came would never show up in the local synagogue because they would have been judged, labeled, and ostracized. They would have felt shame and rejection all before they even would have heard the word of God read to them. But they were willing to come to Matthew’s house for a free dinner, they didn’t really care what it was about, Matthew was their friend.
We also learn from Matthew, never let your past get in the way of your future. It doesn’t matter if you have a criminal past, a troubled upbringing, lack of confidence, lack of experience, or were the star of the team. Everyone has something in their closet that likes to pop up at the worst times. There is no such thing as a perfect family and a perfect upbringing, we all need to work out our own salvation. Paul writes:
“12 Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, 13 for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose.” Philippians 2:12-13
We are not saved by works, we are saved by faith. These verses refer to wrestling out your own faith. Getting past your past, getting past what was and trusting God with your future.
Matthew’s intention was to introduce his friends to Jesus. He wanted them to meet the man who changed his life from depression to intention. From broken to blessed. He wanted them to meet Jesus for themselves and hear his words of life because he loved them, these were his people. What’s fascinating is that Matthew used his influence with his old crowd to introduce them to his new crowd. He wanted to leverage his influence to help others connect with Christ.
If something awesome and amazing in your life is happening, you want to tell others like Matthew did. Accept his invitation, don’t let your past stop you from stepping into your future. There are people near you that need to be near Jesus. God has placed them in your life for you to help them to connect to Jesus.