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May 9, 2021 | Chris Baselice
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“Salvation has come to this home today, for this man has shown himself to be a true son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek and save those who are lost.”—Luke 19:9–10 (NLT)
Parents love when their children learn new things. But if there’s one thing every parent dreads in the first few years of their child’s life, it’s the inevitable learning of the word, “MINE!” Kids need to be taught honesty, manners, and selflessness, but the concept of mine is second nature. At our core, we’re selfish, self-centered beings.
In today’s story, we meet a tax collector named Zaccheus. Now, even today, tax collectors usually aren’t at the top of our Christmas card list. But in Jesus’ day, tax collectors were among the most reviled groups of people because they were considered traitors. They worked for the enemy, Rome, and took money from their own people—usually taking more than they needed to.
Often, these taxes were unfair and unregulated. And Zaccheus wasn’t just any old tax collector. According to Luke 19, he was the chief tax collector, a man who had become rich off the misery and captivity of his own people.
But one day, Jesus came to Jericho and Zaccheus knew he needed to see Him. Certainly he’d heard the buzz surrounding this preacher, prophet, and miracle worker—the One who was rumored as possibly being the Messiah. Feeling guilt, shame, and remorse for his actions as a tax collector, Zaccheus went to go see Jesus, but he was too short to see over the crowds. So, what did he do? He climbed a tree.
Now, you must understand how shocking and out of character this was, not just for Zaccheus—a man of wealth and power—but even more so for a Jewish man. You see, according to various biblical scholars and historians, it was considered undignified and even dishonorable for first-century Jewish men to do such an extravagant thing like this. They never ran or became overly excited. They needed to be in control at all times. But Zaccheus, fearing he’d miss his chance to see Jesus, “ran ahead and climbed a sycamore-fig tree beside the road” (Luke 19:4 NLT).
How did Jesus react to this? He invited Himself over to Zaccheus’ house! Can you imagine the utter shock of the crowd? Surely they knew who Zaccheus was and how he made his fortune. How could Jesus actually associate Himself so personally with this man? Because “people judge by outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7 NLT). On the outside, everyone saw a selfish, greedy, traitorous pest, but Jesus saw a broken, repentant sinner seeking answers . . . seeking the face of God.
In just a brief encounter, seeing the compassion and grace of God through Jesus, Zaccheus decides to do something radical. Luke 19:8 (NLT) says, “I will give half my wealth to the poor, Lord, and if I have cheated people on their taxes, I will give them back four times as much!” What a change of heart! It seems crazy and extreme, but that’s what happens when we see Jesus for who He truly is; when we hear His loving voice and respond. Our lives change, our priorities shift . . . our hearts long for the things God’s heart longs for.
Chief among the things God’s heart longs for is giving. God is a generous God—He’s the ultimate giver. He gives new blessings every day, and most importantly, He gave His Son to make a way for us to know Him personally. As we seek to be more like Him, we too get to experience the joy and blessing that comes from giving.
So, this Easter, be intentional about your giving. Seek to give back by helping someone in need. Maybe find someone you’ve wronged and, like Zaccheus, repay them with four times the generosity. You’ll be glad you did!