Abrahamic / Middle Eastern Christianity Meet Matthew the Apostle, Ex-Tax Collector He went from crooked tax collector to Gospel writer and follower of Jesus Share Flipboard Email Print Apostle Saint Matthew, by Domenikos Theotokopoulos a.k.a El Greco (1541-1614). Leemage / Getty Images Christianity The New Testament Christianity Origins The Bible The Old Testament Practical Tools for Christians Christian Life For Teens Christian Prayers Weddings Inspirational Bible Devotions Denominations of Christianity Funerals and Memorial Services Christian Holidays Christian Entertainment Key Terms in Christianity Catholicism Latter Day Saints View More By Jack Zavada Christianity Expert M.A., English Composition, Illinois State University B.S., English Literature, Illinois State University Jack Zavada is a writer who covers the Bible, theology, and other Christianity topics. He is the author of "Hope for Hurting Singles: A Christian Guide to Overcoming Life's Challenges." our editorial process Jack Zavada Updated August 14, 2020 Matthew the apostle had been a dishonest tax collector driven by greed until Jesus Christ chose him as a disciple. Also called Levi, Matthew was not a stand-out character in the Bible; He is only mentioned by name in the lists of apostles and in the account of his calling. Matthew is traditionally identified as the author of the Gospel of Matthew. Life Lessons from Matthew the Apostle God can use anyone to help him in his work. We should not feel unqualified because of our appearance, lack of education, or our past. Jesus looks for sincere commitment. We should also remember that the highest calling in life is serving God, no matter what the world says. Money, fame, and power cannot compare with being a follower of Jesus Christ. We first meet Matthew in Capernaum, in his tax booth on the main highway. He was collecting duties on imported goods brought by farmers, merchants, and caravans. Under the Roman Empire's system, Matthew would have paid all the taxes in advance, then collected from the citizens and travelers to reimburse himself. Tax collectors were notoriously corrupt because they extorted far and above what was owed, to ensure their personal profit. Because their decisions were enforced by Roman soldiers, no one dared object. Matthew the Apostle Matthew, whose father was Alphaeus (Mark 2:14), was named Levi before his call by Jesus. We don't know whether Jesus gave him the name Matthew or whether he changed it himself, but it is a shortening of the name Mattathias, which means "gift of Yahweh," or simply "the gift of God." On the same day Jesus invited Matthew to follow him, Matthew threw a great farewell feast in his home in Capernaum, inviting his friends so they could meet Jesus too. From that time on, instead of collecting tax money, Matthew collected souls for the kingdom of God. Despite his sinful past, Matthew was uniquely qualified to be a disciple. He was an accurate record keeper and keen observer of people. He captured the smallest details. Those traits served him well when he wrote the Gospel of Matthew some 20 years later. By surface appearances, it was scandalous and offensive for Jesus to pick a tax collector as one of his closest followers since they were widely hated by the Jews. Yet of the four Gospel writers, Matthew presented Jesus to the Jews as their hoped-for Messiah, tailoring his account to answer their questions. From Crooked Sinner to Transformed Saint Matthew displayed one of the most radically changed lives in the Bible in response to an invitation from Jesus. He did not hesitate; he did not look back. He left behind a life of wealth and security for poverty and uncertainty. He abandoned the pleasures of this world for the promise of eternal life. The remainder of Matthew's life is uncertain. Tradition says he preached for 15 years in Jerusalem following the death and resurrection of Jesus, then went out on the mission field to other countries. How Matthew died is disputed. According to Heracleon, the apostle passed away from natural causes. The official "Roman Martyrology" of the Catholic Church suggests that Matthew was martyred in Ethiopia. Foxe’s Book of Martyrs also supports the martyrdom tradition of Matthew, reporting that he was slain with a halberd (a combined spear and battleax) in the city of Nabadar. Accomplishments Matthew served as one of the 12 disciples of Jesus Christ. As an eyewitness to the Savior, Matthew recorded a detailed account of Jesus' life, the story of his birth, his message, and his many deeds in the Gospel of Matthew. He also served as a missionary, spreading the good news to other countries. Strengths and Weaknesses Matthew was an accurate record keeper. He knew the human heart and the longings of the Jewish people. He was loyal to Jesus and once committed, he never wavered in serving the Lord. On the other hand, before he met Jesus, Matthew was greedy. He thought money was the most important thing in life and violated God's laws to enrich himself at the expense of his countrymen. Key Bible Verses Matthew 9:9-13As Jesus went on from there, he saw a man named Matthew sitting at the tax collector's booth. "Follow me," he told him, and Matthew got up and followed him. While Jesus was having dinner at Matthew’s house, many tax collectors and sinners came and ate with him and his disciples. When the Pharisees saw this, they asked his disciples, "Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?" On hearing this, Jesus said, "It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. But go and learn what this means: 'I desire mercy, not sacrifice.' For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners." (NIV) Luke 5:29Then Levi held a great banquet for Jesus at his house, and a large crowd of tax collectors and others were eating with them. (NIV) Sources Martyrdom of Matthew. The Anchor Yale Bible Dictionary (Vol. 4, p. 643).Matthew the Apostle. The Lexham Bible Dictionary.