Today’s Lenten lesson is about the calling of Levi the Tax Collector. Luke 5: 27-32. One day, kinda out of the blue according to the way Luke tells it, Jesus saw Levi and called him to be one of his disciples. Levi not only accepted the call, he got up and started following Jesus right then and there and left behind everything. This is astounding because Levi was a tax collector and tax collectors were very well off in a time when few people were. They had plenty of income and job security and the only trade-off was that everybody else hated them.
I’m not saying Levi accepted the call to get people to like him, but I am saying it would be hard for me to get up and leave everything behind and I don’t have near the wealth that Levi surely did. Levi was in fact leaving behind more than money and a job. He was leaving behind a way of life, one based on getting as much money as possible out of the poor peasants whose taxes he collected. Back then tax collectors took the basic tax rate and added on as much as they thought they could get. That wasn’t cheating. It was the way it worked. It didn’t make them popular.
Maybe Levi was tired of that kind of life. Maybe Levi saw in Jesus the way to whole new kind of life – a life in which he could feel good about the work he did, a life in which he could actually have some friends who wanted to be in his company, a life in which he put the will and desires of God first instead of his own comfort and security. That sounds noble. It certainly sounds like a better life for anyone to choose, but giving up everything – just walking away from it all. Wow.
I have walked away from many things in my life. There are lots more things in my life I could walk away from. But there are some things I would find it very difficult to walk away from. There’s a part of me that tells me I need them, not just need but NEED – like: cant’ live without.
I wonder how many of those things I could or should actually leave behind. I wonder how many relationships I could or should leave behind. I wonder how many ideas or beliefs or even dreams I could or should leave behind.
Sometimes we have to leave them behind in order to move forward. My friend, Jeff Talmadge, wrote a song about this called “The Hard Part’s Letting Go.” The bridge says: Holding on is easy. Sometimes it’s just going with the flow. But any fool can just hang on, the hard part’s letting go.”
I’ve listening to that song hundreds of times. I need a lot of reminding.