“As Jesus passed on from there, he saw a man called Matthew sitting at the tax booth, and he said to him, “Follow me.” And he rose and followed him. (Matthew 9:9)
I’ve always been a planner. September 1 has long been my favorite day of the year, coming just before the beginning of a new school year. I grew up in New England, so our school year didn’t begin until after Labor Day weekend. Labor Day itself would usually find me organizing my new school supplies and setting up my planner for the academic year. I still love September 1 – after going to school for 17 years and then homeschooling for another 16, my love for the beginning of a new school year is probably here to stay. For the past few years, though, I’ve also come to love the first of January, New Year’s Day, almost as much. I love the beginning of a new calendar year filled with promise and dreams and plans.
So when I read Matthew 9, our text for today, in which Jesus calls to Matthew as he is working and says simply, “Follow me” – I’m amazed that Matthew simply dropped everything and walked away with Jesus. I’m amazed, and maybe even a little uncomfortable! Matthew was a tax collector, a man whose job involved important things like schedules and ledgers and money. He was probably a planner, too, like me. Yet Matthew didn’t even question Christ when He called to him to follow. He didn’t ask, “May I just finish this one thing?” He didn’t say, “Sure, but I have to come back next week for this reason.” Instead, Matthew stood up and simply walked away from the life he knew to follow a man he did not yet know.
To do as Matthew did would have been a challenge for me, to be sure, and in realizing this, it made me wonder if this step of obedience was difficult for Matthew as well. I would imagine that it was. Nonetheless, Matthew stood and followed, and in so doing he set a fine example for me – for all of us, really – to do the same. In Luke 9:23, Jesus says, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.” Clearly, just as Christ called Matthew 2000 years ago, He calls us today – and he expects our response now to be the same as Matthew’s was then.
Even though today is January 10, and we are already almost two weeks into the new year, I’m still in planning mode, still thinking about the new goals I’ve set for this year and working to make progress on them. But my study of Matthew 9 has reminded me of Jeremiah 29:11, in which God reminds us that, “I know the plans I have for you…plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” God has plans for me – and for you – that far surpass any I have for myself. So in order to follow Him well, I need to approach any plan I make by first seeking God’s input and His guidance. Each plan I make and every goal I set should be placed before Him first, filtered through His perfect plan for me. I encourage you to do the same! May we all follow Him well, together.