He Left Everything Behind, Part 3

Luke 5:27-32

After that He went out and noticed a tax collector named Levi (Matthew) sitting in the tax booth, and He said to him, ‘Follow Me.’ and he left everything behind and got up and began to follow Him.

One of Matthew’s first responses to his transformed life was to introduce others to Jesus. 

And Levi (Matthew) gave a big reception for Him (Jesus) in his house; and there was a great crowd of tax collectors and other people who were reclining at the table with them.  

The Pharisees and their scribes began grumbling at His disciples, saying, ‘Why do you eat and drink with the tax collectors and sinners?’ And Jesus answered and said to them, ‘It is not those who are well who need a physician, but those who are sick. I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance.  


What do we know about Matthew? 

  • He was a tax collector – most likely, well-compensated. 
  • He had a home that could host a large party with a ‘great crowd’ of people. 
  • Levi the tax collector (Matthew) had a lot of friends and acquaintances  


Matthew’s heart was transformed by Jesus. Jesus called him to follow and Matthew began to follow him, immediately. Matthew got up from the tax booth, quit his job and gave himself to following Jesus. What about his home and other possessions? It’s not clear what he did with his possessions, but before he hit the road with Jesus, he wanted to use his most valuable possession, his home, to honor Jesus with a reception.  


One of Matthew’s first responses to his transformed life was to introduce others to Jesus. 


It seems Matthew wasn’t embarrassed of his tribe of sinners. Jesus came to reach sinners not the holier than thou religious elite. 

Matthew knew intuitively in his first days of being saved what Paul would later teach to the confused Corinthian church. 


I wrote you in my letter not to associate with immoral people; I did not at all mean with the immoral people of this world, or with the covetous and swindlers, or with the idolaters, from then you have to go out of (or leave) the world. But actually, I wrote to you not to associate with any so-called brother if he is an immoral person… I Corinthians 5:9-11 


There are so many religious types and Christians who do not have an awareness of Paul’s clarification above. Paul says it’s OK to associate with immoral people who are idolatrous liars and cheaters. However, so many Christians cannot and do not interact with brazen sinners. But Jesus did.   

I didn’t have any non-Christian friends throughout my 20’s and early 30’s. Literally none. Christians hanging around sinners? They usually avoid such situations. Why? They feel guilty; they’re disgusted by them; they don’t know what to say; they’re afraid to be associated with them…what about you?  


Are you a Matthew or a Pharisee? 

You won’t believe what Isaiah said about this situation about 700 years before Matthew had this party. Have you ever been sitting around a fire and the smoke blows toward you and in your face? It’s very uncomfortable and unpleasant. It burns your nose and eyes. You immediately attempt to move away.  

Check this out — a ‘holier than thou’ attitude by righteous Christians makes God’s eyes burn like smoke in his face. 


(Those) who say, (like the pharisees and legalistic Christians) ‘Keep to yourself, do not come near me, for I am holier than you!’ These are smoke in My nostrils, a fire that burns all the day. Isaiah 65:5. 


When I began going into the regional prison in 2009 to minister and train convicted felons how to get jobs and live productive lives, I thought I was different than them; I thought I was better than them; I thought I was above them. I was wrong. I met humble men, covered with tattoos and painful life experiences, who made some bad decisions along the way. I’ve made a lot of bad decisions in my life too. However, I realized that I was simply fortunate that my bad decisions didn’t have the extreme dire consequences as their decision.

These men wanted to change. Just like me, they wanted to work, contribute and have good relationships with their families. We had a lot in common. I learned a lot from them. 

Pre-pandemic, one of the great joys of my life was to preach at the Houston gospel mission to the homeless and needy. What a joy. 

My attitude toward sinners used to be like smoke in God’s nostrils and fire that burns His eyes. I was ‘holier than thou’. I still struggle with my attitude sometimes. But God has put me through His school of humility. The school of humility taught me that I’m not so great…I’m not better than others. 


In my town, U of H means University of Houston. In my life, U of H means University of Humility. God is the chancellor; Jesus is the president and the Holy Spirit is the dean of students. (I often get called into the dean’s office). 

I didn’t voluntarily enroll in U of H. I was appointed. It isn’t an academic education; it’s a hands-on, real-life experience. We don’t paint our faces and go to sporting events to laugh and cheer. We tend to find ourselves with ‘egg on our faces’, embarrassed, groaning over our failures, enduring pain, loneliness and rejection.  We don’t sit in classroom chairs. Instead we find ourselves on our knees, or in the fetal position, in complete humility, crying out to God. 


Let’s be patient; let’s be kind; let’s be humble; let’s be gracious … toward sinners: for such were some of you; but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, and in the Spirit of our God, I Corinthians 6:11. Amen!