As Jesus went on from there, he saw a man named Matthew sitting at the tax collector’s booth. 'Follow me,' he told him, and Matthew got up and followed him. St Matthew 9.9
Matthew (known also as Levi in the Gospels of Luke and Mark) was a Jew who worked for the Romans as a tax collector in Capernaum.
The Roman method of collecting taxes at the time was to auction a franchise for the collection of taxes within each province. The highest bidder paid a fixed sum to the authorities in return for which he was authorised to levy as much tax as he could extract from the people of his province.
Consequently, the Roman authorities had no trouble collecting taxes but the people were often extorted by unscrupulous tax collectors. For this and the fact that Matthew was working for the occupying authority, he would have been a despised figure within the Jewish community.
It was therefore inviting controversy to choose him as one of the twelve Apostles, but as Jesus said 'I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners'. St Matthew 9.13
Matthew is thought by some scholars to be the author of the first Gospel of the New Testament.
His feast day is celebrated on 21st September.
You can read a selection of sermons preached at St Matthew's, Westminster on the feast day here.