Levi, also known as Matthew, was a “publican,” or tax collector. He was a faithful Jew—the Lord called him to be one of His Apostles—but working for the Roman government that controlled Judea made him and his fellow publicans unpopular. The Pharisees considered publicans to be traitors and sinners regardless of how they lived their lives. (As we’ll see a lot in our study of the New Testament, the Pharisees had a hard time with the concept of not judging others.)
So when the newly called Levi hosted a dinner party that was attended by Jesus and some of Levi’s coworkers and friends, the Pharisees were judgmental. “Why do ye eat and drink with publicans and sinners?” they asked Jesus (Luke 5:30).
Jesus didn’t bother pointing out that working for the Roman government didn’t make a person a sinner. Nor did He mention that everyone (except Himself) was a sinner—Pharisees included!
Jesus said: “They that are whole need not a physician; but they that are sick. I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance” (Luke 5:31–32).
Jesus Christ words are true for us as well as he has commanded us to take His gospel to the whole world. We can’t do that if we look down on people or stay away from others just because of their occupation or social standing.