Almost everyone we encounter on our “good news” journey likes to remind us that Jesus was specifically (only?) talking to the “rich young ruler” when it comes to literally forsaking one’s wealth and possessions. Whew! (wipes sweat from forehead)– thanks to them (and God apparently), I can keep all my crap and cross my fingers in the hope that God will fix the whole poverty issue without any help from me!
But is this really the case?
For those of you who don’t run in church circles, Jesus encounters a rich young ruler in the 18th chapter of Luke’s gospel, whom he instructs to literally sell all his possessions and give the proceeds to the poor. For most American church-goers, that settles any argument about giving away our stuff to help the poor, even though that disappointing encounter ends with Jesus telling his followers that it’s “easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle (used for sewing—check the Greek) than it is for anyone who is rich to enter heaven”. Hmm… that doesn’t fit well with the idea that the rich are blessed, Jesus! (Maybe he just hasn’t heard the gospel according to Joel Osteen and Creflo Dollar). ;0)
So on we move to what unfolds in the very next chapter in Luke’s account where another rich man seeks Christ. Jesus actually invites himself to this guy’s house for dinner after spotting the short fella in a nearby tree trying to get a peek of the radical rabbi.
But what’s so amazing about this encounter is how it ends. Without any apparent prompting from Jesus, Zacchaeus proclaims that he going to give HALF of what he has to the poor, and on top of that, he announces that he will repay everyone he screwed over in his tax collecting business FOUR TIMES the amount he cheated them out of!
Now it doesn’t take a math genius to realize that by giving away half of all you have in addition to repaying all of your customers four-fold, you’re gonna be pretty close to if not completely broke. And yet, consistent to Christ’s blessing on the poor, Jesus tells Zacchaeus that “today salvation has come to this house” in response to Zac’s proclamation (Luke 19:1-10).
What a beautifully startling outcome from a rich man moved to action by the power of love! Looks like Zacchaeus gave that camel a run for its money through that sewing needle!
And the point of this story should not be lost on those of us who have been commissioned by God to remind the rich that they will be made low—if they don’t repent like good ol’ Zac did. (Lk 6:24; James 5:1-6). Surely we must continue to love our enemies who rape the world, enslave and oppress the people for the sake of money because that same love could put their cold hearts on fire for Christ!
So, do we have any modern Zacchaeus readers out there, sitting comfortably high on the tree of greed? Wanna come down and feast together on the bread of life? You won’t be sorry!
Despite the heavy challenges in this post and elsewhere on this site, we know that we ALL sin and fall short of the glory of God. We just want you to know that we love you and are praying that you will come to your senses before it’s too late for those dying now and when you meet your Maker…