Luke 19:1-10 (ESV)
1 He entered Jericho and was passing through. 2 And behold, there was a man named Zacchaeus. He was a chief tax collector and was rich. 3 And he was seeking to see who Jesus was, but on account of the crowd he could not, because he was small in stature. 4 So he ran on ahead and climbed up into a sycamore tree to see him, for he was about to pass that way. 5 And when Jesus came to the place, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, hurry and come down, for I must stay at your house today.” 6 So he hurried and came down and received him joyfully. 7 And when they saw it, they all grumbled, “He has gone in to be the guest of a man who is a sinner.” 8 And Zacchaeus stood and said to the Lord, “Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor. And if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I restore it fourfold.” 9 And Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, since he also is a son of Abraham. 10 For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.”
Luke introduces the reader to a hated tax collector named Zacchaeus. Tax collectors worked with the Romans to raise government monies, and they took an extra (and often large) cut from the people for themselves. The Jews hated the tax collectors because they were representatives of the government that oppressed and abused them, and because they personally profited from dishonest gain. Zacchaeus was actually a chief tax collector, and though he was Jewish, he sold his own people out to Romans while making a very large income. At the same time, Zacchaeus was curious about Jesus, and since he wasn’t tall enough to see over the crowd, Zacchaeus climbed up a sycamore tree to get a view from the top. As Jesus passed by, he stopped right in front of the tree. Can you imagine how nervous Zacchaeus must have been? Jesus called out, “Zacchaeus!” Jesus was about to demonstrate to his followers how God could make a camel go through the eye of a needle, since this rich man was about to enter the kingdom of heaven. Zacchaeus flew down the tree and welcomed Jesus into his home. The crowd must have been amazed. Zacchaeus declared he would give back up to four times what he cheated others out of, and he would give half of his money to the poor. Remember the rich young ruler (Luke 18:18-23)? He wouldn’t part with his wealth. Jesus declared that salvation had come to the house of Zacchaeus, who was born again, and now a true son of Abraham.
Was Zacchaeus saved because he gave away half his money and repaid those he wronged? No. He was saved by faith in Jesus. And yet, with trust in Jesus comes a desire to obey God. If we are followers of Jesus, we too should be willing to make restitution to those we have wronged. Have you stolen from others? Have you broken your promises? Have you damaged someone else’s reputation? If so, be like Zacchaeus and seek to make amends for your sin. Repay what you took. Be faithful to the one you let down. And do whatever you can to build up the reputation of the one you slandered. If we have been called by Jesus to come down from our tree and into a relationship with him, let’s demonstrate our salvation by living in a way that honors the Lord. Even though it can be humiliating, choose today to make right the wrongs you have done.