Jesus would often incur suspicion by reaching out to prostitutes and tax collectors. It strikes us as a little bit odd that these two professions are so often joined together in the New Testament. What was so bad about collecting taxes that the profession was put on the same level as prostitution?
Scripture scholars can tell us about the complex reality between the Roman government and the Jewish people, and between Roman pagan culture and Jewish culture, but that is not the purpose of the gospel. The purpose of the gospel is not to explore the political, economic and religious tensions between the Jews and the Romans, but to proclaim the good news of the salvation of Jesus Christ.
St. Matthew the apostle sensed the nearness of that salvation. He was a tax collector sitting at his toll booth when he heard Jesus call him: “Follow me.” And St. Matthew got up and followed him. The gospel records the calling of St. Matthew to inspire us to do what he did: to hear Jesus, and to get up and follow Him, and to leave all other things, good or bad, to the care of His providence.