It’s one of those funny stories really.
He’s a short man. And he’s despised. He knows it too. He’s a tax collector. He tells himself that he’s just doing his job, and if he collects a little extra, well, so what? After all, the people are mean and ugly to him—he sees it in their eyes and hears it in their voices when he approaches. So he rationalizes the extra that he takes from the people—it is fair compensation.
At night, he senses the emptiness of his soul in his well-furnished house. But in some ways he doesn’t mind. He’s got his money to keep him company. Who needs people anyhow—at least that’s what he tells himself.
But the news begins to trickle in about a man called Jesus. He heals people. He makes the lame walk, the blind see, and the demons cower. The stories multiply. It’s hard not to overhear them in the marketplace. Here’s what’s puzzling to Zacchaeus—this man, this Jesus, doesn’t appear to give preference to the ruling rich. He’s for all people. His kindness and compassion seem to know no boundaries.
Zacchaeus is curious, and one day it happens. He hears Jesus is coming his way. But the crowds are too big, and no one (predictably) will let him through. He is so desperate to see this man who is so different that he climbs a tree just to get a glimpse.
Then it happens. Jesus stops in front of his tree and invites himself to dinner at Zacchaeus’ house. His house! He’s the most hated man in town, and Jesus is coming to dine with him at his big, empty, well-furnished house. He can’t believe it. He’s so excited to have company, and not just any company, but this very curious, compassionate man, who, well, seems to care for him.
And in a moment, he’s changed by this love. Zacchaeus responds by giving up the thing that has meant the most to him all these years. In a spontaneous cry of gratitude, he tells Jesus he will give 50% to the poor—far more than required by the law. Further, he tells Jesus he will repay up to 4 times those he has wronged.
Alas, how much like Zacchaeus am I? Stingy by nature. Rationalizing away my minimalist obedience. And how much like Zacchaeus should I be—amazed by love, which prompts a generous response of giving what I’ve most treasured?
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Published March 15, 2016