Zacchaeus’ Walk With Jesus, from Greed to Purity

This week’s money and stewardship devotional from the four Gospels* is from Luke 19:8-9. In the preceding verses, we see Zacchaeus a tax collector, following Jesus, and immediately is compelled regarding his financial life.

8 But Zacchaeus stood up and said to the Lord, “Look, Lord! Here and now I give half of my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount.”

9 Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because this man, too, is a son of Abraham. 10 For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.”

Zacchaeus collected taxes by going door-to-door, not like today, when we pay our taxes through the internet or payroll deduction. There is quite an advantage to collect taxes this way. Living amongst his collectees, he could see their lifestyle. The parties people threw, clothes they wore, the livestock, fields and business’s productivity was very observable. Zach surely walked the marketplace and saw money change hands, and the things people purchased. He also probably knew of their hard times and good times, struggles and pain. Yet at the end of the day, he commanded the payment amount, or he could make life very difficult. Zacchaeus had the force of law and the power of soldiers to enforce the collection of money.

If Zacchaeus was successful, he could exploit people for additional amounts, for his own lifestyle. A very nice arrangement for the tax collector, although he was a hated man. Quite a trade-off, greed and wealth for loneliness. Not a tall man either, he had to climb a tree to get a view (Luke 19:4), although he probably held himself in high esteem. But when he got down from the tree, he went from a high altitude, down to his knees, at Jesus feet, as we see in Luke 19:8: “But Zacchaeus stood up…

Zacchaeus is an Aramaic name that means pure. On one hand he was purely despised by his neighbors. He probably didn’t have a lot of friends or guests in his home, unless they were begging or bribing him, but Jesus went to his home (Luke 19:5-6). Jesus gladly went to stay with him for a while, and I’d guess at least shelter for the evening. They were instant friends, beautiful.

Jesus welcomed this man of scorn and greed with love and friendship. In Jesus, I believe Zach saw the Kingdom of God. He saw Jesus’ purity, and his own purity quite lacking. He saw his own sin of living for himself, of greed, and putting his trust in money. Zachaeus wanted no more of his past behavior and wanted to demonstrate his new heart right away, when he said Look, Lord! Here and now I give half of my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount.”

In summary, if you have accepted Jesus as your savior, and are following him with your life, you have a new heart (2 Corinthians 5:17). Jesus righteousness is imputed to us (2 Corinthians 5:21). In Jesus we have pure hearts; all of our names could be Zacchaeus!  Jesus called out to Zacchaeus in his spirit, he pointed to the thing in Zach that was his religion; the love of money and possessions. He immediately wanted to tithe one half of everything he had to the poor, and give back to those he stole from, four times the amount he took. I call that repentance, and putting on a new lifestyle, a new garment of living (Romans 13:14). What is Jesus saying to you today about what you hold on to, your honesty, your greed, how best to repent of it, and how to walk with Jesus in your finances?

*A chronological examination of any verse that involves money and stewardship, attempting to see the new light that Jesus shines on money in His ‘for-us’ but selfless, grace filled, Holy Spirit empowered, and Kingdom oriented positions. This is the fifty-fifth post in this series.

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