One of Jesus' apostles was a man named Matthew. In the NRSV he has called a Publican; They were tax collectors and were so-called because they dealt with public money and with public funds. The Roman government tax collecting system lent itself to grave abuses.
A person bought the right to collect taxes and was responsible to the Roman government for an agreed sum; anything that could be raised over that amount the tax collector kept as commission.
These tax collectors were universally hated. By Jewish law, they were barred from the synagogue and they had entered the service of the hated Roman government. When Jesus called Matthew, he could see not only what he was, but also what he could be. Matthew accepted the challenge to follow Jesus and left a comfortable job, but found destiny. It's certainly possible that if we accept the challenge of Christ, we may find ourselves poor in material things. Worldly ambitions may have to go. On that day, Matthew gave up much in the material sense, but in the spiritual sense he became heir to a fortune.
Jesus also actually sat at table with men and women like Matthew, with tax collectors and sinners. By keeping company with people like this, he was doing something which the pious people of his day would never have done. Jesus' defense was perfectly simple; he merely said that he went where the need was greatest. He was saying: “It is only those who know how much they need me who can accept my invitation.”
Those scribes and Pharisees had a view of religion which is by no means dead.practical help.
As we proceed reestablishing in-person services, are we attempting to pour the activities of the modern congregation into an old church building. It may be that we would do well to remember that when any living thing stops growing, it starts dying. It may be that we need to pray that God will deliver us from wanting to relive the past rather than accept the opportunities to move to a new future.
Let us pray,
Almighty God, you alone can bring into order the unruly wills and affections of sinners: Grant your people grace to love what you command and desire what you promise; that, among the swift and varied changes of the world, our hearts may surely be fixed where true joys are to be found; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen