What the Bible Says About Tax Collectors

Tax collectors in the Bible were a despised group, often seen as corrupt and greedy. They were responsible for collecting taxes for the Roman Empire, which was deeply unpopular among the Jewish people. As a result, tax collectors were often ostracized and excluded from society. However, Jesus showed compassion and grace to tax collectors, welcoming them into his circle of disciples. He saw beyond their profession to their human need, and he offered them a chance to repent and follow him. Jesus’ teachings about tax collectors challenged the social norms of his time and demonstrated that God’s love extends to all people, regardless of their background or reputation.

Jesus’s Interactions with Tax Collectors

In the Bible, tax collectors were often despised and considered outcasts. They were seen as traitors who collaborated with the Roman occupation and took advantage of their positions to extort money from the people.

Despite this, Jesus reached out to tax collectors and showed them compassion and love. He went to their homes, ate with them, and taught them about the Kingdom of God.

The Call of Matthew

  • Matthew was a tax collector who was sitting at his tax booth when Jesus called him to follow him (Matthew 9:9).
  • Matthew left his job and followed Jesus, becoming one of his twelve disciples.

The Feast at Levi’s House

  • Jesus was invited to a feast at Levi’s house, who was a tax collector (Luke 5:29).
  • Many tax collectors and sinners were also present at the feast.
  • The Pharisees criticized Jesus for eating with tax collectors and sinners.
  • Jesus responded by saying that he came to call sinners to repentance (Luke 5:32).

The Parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector

Jesus told the parable of the Pharisee and the tax collector to illustrate the importance of humility and repentance (Luke 18:9-14).

PhariseeTax Collector
Stood and prayed with himselfStood afar off
Thanked God for not being like other menBegged God for mercy, saying, “God, be merciful to me, a sinner!”

The parable shows that God listens to the prayers of the humble and repentant, even if they are considered outcasts by society.


Jesus’s interactions with tax collectors show us that he came to save all people, regardless of their past or present sins. He reached out to them with compassion and love, and he showed them that they were worthy of redemption.

Tax Collectors and Sin

Tax collectors were often seen as sinful people in the Bible. This was because they worked for the Roman government, which was seen as oppressive and corrupt. Tax collectors were also known to be dishonest and to extort money from people.

However, Jesus did not see tax collectors as sinners. He saw them as people who were lost and in need of salvation. Jesus even called Matthew, a tax collector, to be one of his disciples.

Tax Collectors and the Kingdom of God

  • Tax collectors were often excluded from the synagogue and other religious gatherings.
  • Jesus welcomed tax collectors and ate with them, causing religious leaders to criticize him.
  • Jesus told the parable of the Pharisee and the tax collector, demonstrating that tax collectors could be more righteous than the religious leaders.
  • Zacchaeus, a chief tax collector, repented and gave half of his possessions to the poor after encountering Jesus (Luke 19:1-10).
Tax CollectorResponse to JesusOutcome
MatthewLeft his job and followed Jesus (Matthew 9:9)Became a disciple and apostle
ZacchaeusRepented, gave half of his possessions to the poor, and made amends to those he had wronged (Luke 19:1-10)Received salvation and joy
Tax collector in the parableBegged God for mercy (Luke 18:13)Went home justified