Tax Collector

Ancient Tax Collector

Illustration of a Tax Collector collecting taxes

Tax collectors were very despised because they collected taxes for Rome, but Jesus saw this as an opportunity to teach that everyone was accepted by Jesus if they believed.

During the time of Jesus, Israel was divided into various territories that were governed by the descendants of Herod the Great, but Judea was an Imperial territory governed by a Roman procurator and the taxes were very high there. Wealthy Jews would bid for the position of tax collector and get even more rich by adding a substantial fee above whatever was owed. There were also publicans like Matthew who collected taxes for customs or tolls on imports, exports, and merchants who came to buy or sell in Israel. The religious leaders especially despised the tax collectors and they were considered unclean because of their contact with Romans. Their testimonies were rejected in court and they were not redeemable under the law of Moses. When Jesus made friends with the tax collectors his ministry was immediately under suspect.

Luke 15:1 - "Then drew near unto him all the publicans and sinners for to hear him."

Also See:

The Tax Collectors - Bible History Online

Vine's Expository Dictionary - Publican

Strong's Concordance - Publican

Ancient Roman Stone Reliefs

Biblical Definition of Taxes in Fausset's Bible Dictionary

Taxes in Eastons Bible Dictionary

Taxes in Smiths Bible Dictionary

TRIBUTE (TAXES) in Naves Topical Bible

Sketches of Jewish Social Life - Taxation and Publicans

Julius Caesar's War Commentaries

Heart Message

The Well Hated Tax Collector

The Tax Collectors - A Devotional

There is no one hated by a nation quite as much as an enemy collaborator. The tax collectors in Israel at the time of Christ were the leaches that sucked the financial blood out of the hard working laborers of Israeli society and transferred it into the coffers of the occupying Roman Empire, taking as much as they could for themselves.

The tax collector made a sizable living. But part of his pay was the derision, disgust and isolation of his community. In rigid defiance he plodded through the condemning faces, the whispers, the threats and rage, multiplying his wealth and the emptiness of his soul.

Here comes the new preacher from Nazareth, offering as his credentials, miracles, physical healing, and a voice of authority that even demonic presences obey. Having spent another day plundering the strongholds of hell over His people, He calls another to follow Him. Who would it be this time? It is Matthew, a tax collector!

But so that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins...." Then he said to the paralytic, "Get up, take your mat and go home." And the man got up and went home.

When the crowd saw this, they were filled with awe; and they praised God, who had given such authority to men. As 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." Matt. 9:6-13

The great physician calls to all who are sick, knowing that the disease of sin is terminal regardless of the kind of sin, degree of sin, or any biased human method of quantifying it. All have fallen short of the glory of God, and all are in desperate need of His love and forgiveness. The tax collectors that followed Christ took their place in the long line of notorious sinners who were grateful for the abundance of mercy that God offered and continues to offer to all who will call upon His name.

Part of their message must be that if God can forgive an enemy collaborator, He can forgive me. In the end, and by God's standard, have we not all collaborated with the true enemy of heaven? Haven't we all been self-serving if we were honest enough to admit it? Thank God there is room for the tax collectors, and the sinners of all kinds in the Kingdom of Heaven, because that means that there is also room for you and me.

The Bible mentions the "Tax Collectors":

Matthew 5:46 - For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye? do not even the publicans the same?

Luke 3:12 - And [some] tax-gatherers also came to be baptized, and they said to him, "Teacher, what shall we do?"

Luke 5:27 - And after that He went out, and noticed a tax-gatherer named Levi, sitting in the tax office, and He said to him, "Follow Me."

Luke 5:29 - And Levi gave a big reception for Him in his house; and there was a great crowd of tax-gatherers and other [people] who were reclining [at the table] with them.

Luke 5:30 - And the Pharisees and their scribes [began] grumbling at His disciples, saying, "Why do you eat and drink with the tax-gatherers and sinners?"

Luke 7:29 - And when all the people and the tax-gatherers heard [this], they acknowledged God's justice, having been baptized with the baptism of John.

Luke 7:34 - "The Son of Man has come eating and drinking; and you say, 'Behold, a gluttonous man, and a drunkard, a friend of tax-gatherers and sinners!'

Luke 15:1 - Now all the tax-gatherers and the sinners were coming near Him to listen to Him.

Luke 18:10 - "Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee, and the other a tax-gatherer.

Luke 18:11 - "The Pharisee stood and was praying thus to himself, 'God, I thank Thee that I am not like other people: swindlers, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax-gatherer.

Luke 18:13 - "But the tax-gatherer, standing some distance away, was even unwilling to lift up his eyes to heaven, but was beating his breast, saying, 'God, be merciful to me, the sinner!'

Luke 19:2 - And behold, there was a man called by the name of Zaccheus; and he was a chief tax-gatherer, and he was rich.