No one is ever thrilled to pay taxes, especially if those taxes are paid to a hostile government that conquered your country. It is even worse if the tax collector, one of your own people, includes a sizable tip to be paid to himself. A man like Zacchaeus.
The Bible doesn't tell us what motives Zacchaeus had for wanting to see Jesus that day. We don't know if he was originally simply a curiousity-seeker who was following the crowd, he had desired to see Jesus for some time or if the idea simply occurred to him that day. It really doesn't matter. The point was, he wanted to see Jesus and he was willing to go to great lengths to do so.
At first glance, we might not think too much about a man climbing a tree in order to see better. As a rich and powerful man living in Palestine during the first century, Zacchaeus would have been decked out in clothing befitting his station. The length of your garment indicated your position of power as well as the quality of the fabric. Rich powerful business men did not go around climbing trees in order to better see someone back then, any more than they do today. People of Zacchaeus' status would have sent servants to demand that Jesus appear before him. Instead, we find Zacchaeus climbing up a tree. Zacchaeus was willing to do whatever it took to see Jesus. Are we?
As Jesus passed by the tree where Zacchaeus was perched, He calls Zacchaeus by name and commands him to quickly come down. Jesus knows and calls each of us by name as well and bids us to come to Him. How do we respond to His call?
After his encounter with Jesus, Zacchaeus said, “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!” (Luke 19:8). This was a complete reversal of Zacchaeus' previous behavior. The man who had lied and cheated people was publicly declaring that he was going to make restitution as well as give away half of his wealth to those in need.
In the preceding chapter, a rich man had come to Jesus asking what he must do to inherit eternal life. He went away saddened when Jesus said he needed to sell all that he had and follow Him. In the account of Zacchaeus, however, that question is not asked nor is Zacchaeus even told what he should do. You see, Zacchaeus knew exactly what he needed to do.
Two rich men came to see Jesus. One man sadly went away because he was asked to give up his wealth. The other man was not asked to do so but instead, as a result of his encounter with Jesus, joyfully made restitution above and beyond what was required and gave abundantly to others as well. What was the cause of this difference? A changed heart.
We don't talk about the changed heart very much. We talk about saying a prayer, reading a scripture, going to church and perhaps even giving in the offering or paying tithes. We talk about adding things to our lives but we don't talk about eliminating things from our life.
Perhaps that is why so many Christians struggle with following Christ. They say the right words, go to the right places and perhaps even do the right things but there is something missing. They have never allowed God to change their hearts and until they do... they're just kidding themselves.
Photo Credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/emeryjl/511062591/