Death and Taxes

Read: Leviticus 4:1-5:19, Mark 2:13-3:6, Psalm 36:1-12, Proverbs 10:1-2

As he walked along, he saw Levi son of Alphaeus sitting at his tax collector’s booth. “Follow me and be my disciple,” Jesus said to him. So Levi got up and followed him.
(Mark 2:14)

Relate: In a letter written way back in 1789, Benjamin Franklin wrote the now-famous quote, “In this world, nothing can be said to be certain except death and taxes..” What most people do not realize is that Franklin is actually quoting someone else. Perhaps it was one of those phrases that made its way past many lips through intellectual circles. Perhaps it was one of those things he heard and it stuck with him. Franklin was brilliant at pulling random facts and memories out and applying them at the perfect moment. Wherever and however he first heard it, we do know that the earliest use of the idea actually comes from The Cobler of Preston, a play written by Christopher Bullock more than seventy years earlier.

No matter who first thought it up or said it, the fact remains. Two things are hated, feared, and yet guaranteed: death and taxes. This has been a fact of life for as long as humanity has been around. I am sure even way back in the caveman days, Shagga came up to Breggo and Narg with a big stick and said, “You give me fish. I beat you. You choose.” Poor Breggo and Narg had a choice. Death or taxes. And the rest is history. Even in the days of the Roman occupation, most tax collectors would be thought of as we would imagine an unscrupulous “enforcer” for the mob. Levi (or Matthew) wasn’t a very well-loved member of society. Evil women were called prostitutes and evil men were called tax collectors. Even today, if I were to say someone was a mortician or an IRS agent, what would your stereotype be? I am picturing someone who would prefer working alone, perhaps is a bit nerdy (extremely), and who is probably not getting invited to many parties. Maybe they aren’t evil, but they certainly aren’t well-loved.

React: They aren’t until Jesus shows up. In Jewish society, it was a huge honor to be a disciple of a rabbi. Most boys would invest their lives up to the age of twelve to prepare for the moment when they can sit before a rabbi being tested in their knowledge. If they are good enough, the rabbi would say, “come, follow me.” Then the boy (at 12, now a young man in their society) would follow that rabbi around joining his yeshiva, his group who are learning from them. When Jesus calls out to Peter, Andrew, James, and John by the seashore, he is founding his own yeshiva. The fact that he would include a hated tax collector in his group… I’m not necessarily a big fan of Rob Bell, but he describes it perfectly here:


Dear God,
I am honored and amazed that You would say to me, “Come and follow.” You came to call the oppressed and marginalized. You came for the sinners and despised. And I am one. Help me now to turn around and show that same love to those who You would pursue most fervently. Help me to love the unlovable. Help me to reach out to the untouchable. When people see me in action, let them understand Your love that would even befriend the IRS agents of our day.

Even as I was writing this today, “death and taxes” became an interruption. I heard that my first, favorite artist Carman Licciardello has died. I remember listening to his albums “Comin On Strong” and “The Champion” on record and one of the first cassette tapes I bought with my own money was Revival In The Land when I was ten or eleven. Today’s worship song is my favorite from that album…

The River Walk is a devotional created by Two Rivers Church. To visit or to watch a message online, please click here.
To read previous years devotionals taken from the February 17th please click below:

Never Once

The List

The Whisper

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