I feel a bit sorry for Zacchaeus. He was from Jericho and a tax collector in Jesus’ time. It’s a bit like being a banker in our time. We might think of bankers as these people who don’t do much and yet still receive huge bonuses, but I’m sure there are some honourable bankers.
Many in Zacchaeus’ profession would have collected taxes for the Romans and taken some extra for themselves. Maybe if people struggled to pay, they made the fines really steep, increasing them on a daily basis. That’s what most people seem to think of Zacchaeus – that he was a liar and a cheat, but …
What if Zacchaeus was an honourable tax collector?
Have you heard his story? When Jesus came to Jericho, Zacchaeus was too short to see over the crowd’s heads, so he climbed a tree. Jesus stopped at the bottom of the tree and beckoned him to come down, inviting Himself to his house. Zacchaeus gladly welcomes Him and hearing the crowd’s complaints, he stands there and says: “I will give half of my possessions to the poor. And if I have cheated anyone, I will pay back four times more” (Luke 19:8).
If I have cheated anyone.
Poor Zacchaeus. All these people, even thousands of years later, thinking he lived his pre-Jesus life as a liar and a cheat, but we don’t know for sure. We know he was wealthy (Luke 19:2), but perhaps he was wealthy simply because of the salary the Romans gave him. Either way, his encounter with Jesus filled him with generosity. How many of us would give half our possessions to the poor?
I’ve been having a chat with a friend on Facebook today that ended up being about tithing. It reminded me of a story I read years ago that’s always stayed with me. I couldn’t find it anywhere online, so thought I’d blog it. I hope I’m not breaking some copyright law! It came from “Daily Walk with God” by Herman W. Gockel, and it went something like this:
A man earned £10 a week. He gladly tithed his income, giving £1 a week to the church.
He advanced up the career-ladder, gaining several promotions, until one day he turned up at his pastor’s office. “What seems to be the problem?” his pastor asked.
“Well, you see, it’s my tithing. I can no longer afford it. I now earn £10,000 a week and frankly, it’s too much!”
After a pause, the pastor looked at him and said quietly: “We could always pray and ask God to reduce your income to £10 a week.”
Makes me want to thank God for the money in my bank.
“The generous will prosper; those who refresh others will themselves be refreshed” (Proverbs 11:25).
This verse has always spurred me on towards doing good. It’s a great reminder that when you give to others, far from losing out (as the world would have you believe), you actually gain from it. When you refresh others, you’ll be refreshed yourself.
I don’t know how that refreshing will look for you, but personally, God has met my financial needs; He’s put just the right people in my life at just the times I’ve needed their encouragement … I know I’ve mentioned Kelly before on the blog (a songwriter in the US): We’re not in-touch so much now, but 2006 was a very difficult year, and the words to her songs a real Godsend (my favourites aren’t on YouTube, sadly).
Can you see God in the middle of your difficulty? My prayer is that you’ll look back one day and see how He supported you, and if you’re going through a hard season at the moment, this is a place where you’re free to comment if you want to. I’m happy to chat.
There’s a lot in Proverbs 3. Today these verses made me think: “My child, do not reject the Lord’s discipline … The Lord corrects those He loves, just as parents correct the child they delight in” (Proverbs 3:11-12), probably because I had just read Jarrod Cooper’s latest post, which talks about being correctable. He says some people can’t handle correction, so they call it rejection … but God disciplines those He loves. Are you accepting or rejecting God’s discipline?
And a verse I don’t seem to have noticed before is this one: “Whenever you are able, do good to people who need help” (Proverbs 3:27). I like that phrase – ‘Whenever you are able’, because it confirms what I’ve always thought: That God doesn’t expect us to give beyond our means. There are verses about a church who gave beyond their ability (2 Corinthians 8:1-5), but I believe that was the exception, not the rule for all of us. Besides, if we do that with the wrong heart-motive, aren’t we in danger of putting God to the test? “I’m giving beyond my ability; therefore You have to provide”? Actually, God doesn’t have to do anything; He doesn’t even have to put up with us. The things He does, He does because He loves us. He sees us not just as people to put up with, but the apple of His eye. Aren’t you glad?
I had the radio on yesterday and they were talking about an increasing number of people in the UK living in ‘Food poverty’. If I remember rightly, they said 14% of people had no choice but to spend 10% of their income on food bills, and the poorest households spent more than that! Is this what they call poverty?
I’ll usually spend more than 10% of my income on food bills, and I would never categorise myself as someone living in poverty. I always have enough to eat, and enough to share. Perhaps our media need to visit places like the Philippines, where a boiled egg is divided between 7 people, before filling our news with such rubbish.