There is very little known about Levi (also called Matthew and the author of that gospel) outside of his role as a disciple. It is believed that he died somewhere in Ethiopia but how and where are not known. Some say it was from a sword wound, others say it was beheading. Some think it might have been old age, though I rather doubt that.
Levi was a tax collector. He was one of the most hated men in the culture. Not only did he collect taxes, he could demand more than was appropriate…and get it. While it doesn’t specifically say that he did, chances are good that it happened.
What did he leave? He left all of the money there at his table. He left a well-paying job. He left a comfortable life…even though he was hated and reviled by his countrymen, he could afford anything he wanted. It would be like walking away from a seven figure income to become poor and homeless.
What was Jesus asking? Jesus was offering Levi a chance to become a disciple, talmid, of His. This means a total and complete commitment to study under Jesus, to become like Him. It meant giving up everything in order to learn.
Why did he do it? The answer to this question is speculative, and some may disagree. I believe that each of His disciples were born to do exactly what they did. When Jesus called them, they could feel the rightness of the calling. I seriously doubt if any of them, named or unnamed in the New Testament, would have resisted the call. Some may fall aside later, but the call was in them.
What can we learn? First let me quote the line most often used in this context. Jesus came to call the outcasts. Those who are well don’t need a doctor, but the sick do. That means He came to call us.
Second, God will call us. He may not call us to quit our jobs and become itinerant preachers. He may want us in the line of work we’re in. However, He has a purpose for us.
Last, we are called to follow. That doesn’t mean talk about it, though that helps. That doesn’t mean think we’re in a different category because we follow. Levi was a tax collector. He followed Jesus. Following Jesus doesn’t instantly make us better than others.