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 good people who live honest lives will be a blessing to their children” (Proverbs 20:7).
I’m on benefits because I’m blind, and I’ve never been able to find paid employment. When I fill in forms, I’m careful to do it honestly. On some, like the claim for Disability Living Allowance, we’re asked to say what we need, even if we don’t currently have it. The problem is that one person’s thoughts on what they need can be very different to someone else’s. For example, my answer to the question: “Do you need someone to keep an eye on you?” would be no, because I can go out on my own with my cane, cross roads etc. I’ll need help sometimes (as anybody would), but generally when I’m on my own, I’m not in danger. But a friend of mine was advised to answer yes, because if she went out with a stain on her blouse, she wouldn’t be able to see it.
Although I shouldn’t judge how other people choose to answer, it does seem unfair when I see someone with the same degree of blindness or with more sight than me get significantly more money than I do, but verses like this are an encouragement to me. I try to be a person of integrity, and this verse tells me that if I am, I’m going to be a blessing to my children (in my case, my sponsored children).
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I was with someone today who’s reading Proverbs in 31 days along-with me, and she told me the verse which stuck out to her. The verses that impact you will probably be different to mine, so if you’d like to share in the comments, that would be really exciting.
“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?
“What more can I say about the Philippines than has already been said?” I think that’s why I hadn’t written about it here, but yesterday a lady at church (who comes from the Philippines) told us something I hadn’t heard before.
I had seen someone call the typhoon Yolanda instead of Haiyan, which I thought was strange, but yesterday I found out why. In the Philippines, they name their typhoons after women, starting every year with the letter A. Typhoon Yolanda means that this year, they must have had 25 typhoons. 25 typhoons in 11 months seems unimaginable, doesn’t it? It certainly surprised me.
I’ve just found out the island where Cindy lives is without electricity and may not receive it for another 40 days, so what can we do? Well, we can pray. We can ask for the power on that island to be reconnected so they won’t have to wait another 6 weeks. God said He was concerned about suffering as long ago as when the Israelites were slaves in Egypt, and He loves the people of the Philippines, so we can ask Him to comfort them, and we can be a part of the relief effort by giving. If like me you’ve heard on the news that the UK is sending £30 million in aid, maybe like me you wonder whether what you can give will amount to anything. When I think about this, I think of a man who spoke at a road-show I went to. He was a pastor who’d been in prison for his faith and received over 90,000 letters. He asked us to imagine what would have happened if every one of those people thought their letter wouldn’t make a difference.
Please prayerfully give what you can. I believe every pound helps. I know there is concern when you give money about whether it gets to where it’s needed most, and that’s why I’d personally recommend Compassion – because they’ve worked with local churches in the Philippines for years and I know they have contacts in the affected area, so if you’re in the UK you can give here, or here if you’re in the US, or perhaps there’s another organisation close to your heart or you have a contact there yourself. However you give, thank you, and if you’ve got family or friends in the Philippines, please know that you’re loved and supported in prayer.