The Question of Who BenefitsFrom “My” Work
† In Jesus Name †
May the grace and peace of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ so transform you that you know the excitement and joy that leads you to see others needs…and meet them!
Part 1: Fruit of His Labors
When we hear Zacchaeus was a tax collector, I think we paint a picture in our minds. A small man, perhaps with squinty eyes, and hands that are moving way to fast. A glint in his eye when money is involved.
We probably assume he is evil, that he robbed people left and right of what they earned. After all, aren’t tax collectors the ultimate example of evil? There are some noble used car salesman out there, and even some very honest politicians and lawyers.
But a tax collector though? A government worker whose job depended on collecting enough revenue? Who had legal authority to fine and who received a bonus, or a cut, of all he took in, he is one who needs to repent, right?
So if he can repent, we have hope, right?
If Zack can be transformed by God’s love, then we are a much simpler job, right?
No. I don’t think so. I think we make a mistake in saying he was more evil than we are, just because of his role. Certainly, the little guy was hated more than anyone else, but he we can’t assume that he was more corrupt, more self-centered.
Certainly he was not a hero to his people. Look at how they grumbled because Jesus went to him!
He hoarded his wealth; he was successful in that we find out why he needed to repent. We see the change in him after he encounters Jesus. Instead of sharing, he hoarded. Instead of meeting needs, he made sure he had none. He didn’t care about those around him; he cared about himself.
It may be considered as American as apple pie, but greed is still a sin. Not loving your brother, and responding in love to his needs is still a sin. We don’t like hearing that, we want to enjoy the fruit of our labors, and not share it with others. We want what we deserve, the pay we earned with our own hands.
Which brings up an interesting question – why do we do what we do? To serve God, or to serve ourselves?
Zacchaeus served himself, but even as a wealthy man, a man who did his job well, that wasn’t enough. Throughout scripture, you see this – over and over, as those who are only focused on themselves live empty lives. Ethics and morality are reduced from living a life that benefits others, to lives that don’t rob from others.
We hear this in the first epistle of John,
16 We know what real love is because Jesus gave up his life for us. So we also ought to give up our lives for our brothers and sisters. 17 If someone has enough money to live well and sees a brother or sister in need but shows no compassion—how can God’s love be in that person? 18 Dear children, let’s not merely say that we love each other; 1 John 3:16-19 (NLT)
This is our call to repentance this evening, this is the call to confession, to pray that God would help us to change.
That He remove from us the lack of compassion that has a grip on our souls. That He would remove from us a heart that is self-centered and only cares about its own needs.
As we enter a time of silence, let the Spirit convict you, show you where you need to have Him change you, and grant you the forgiveness you need.
( after confession of sin, confession of what we believe and why we have hope, part II begins )
Zacchaeus Part II
It probably never entered Zacchaeus’ mind that Jesus would be coming to dinner. He would be willing just to get a glimpse of him, maybe if was lucky, get a selfie with Jesus in the background.
Why would a prophet, why would a rabbi invest time in him? It is as inconceivable as Ebenezer Scrooge leaving his entire net worth to the elder’s benevolence fund. Or Mr. Grinch bringing Christmas presents for everyone in Whoville. Or Mr. Zacchaeus returning the tax money he collected to those in need.
No priest, no pastor would give him the time of day, he was a spiritually wounded man on the road to Jericho, and he really needed a Samaritan, a Savior. Even though he was a Jew, even though he probably donated money, how would he ever learn that he could repent of his sin? That he wasn’t a complete write-off in the eyes of God. He needed someone to tell Him,
And Jesus did.
He said let’s eat together – at your place.
I am interested in your life Zach; I want to be part of it.
It may be the first time any religious leader had said that to him, and it changed Zaccheus’s life forever.
Come, let us feast together, let me come to you.
My friends repentance doesn’t start with us promising God to make things right; it doesn’t start by our deciding we need to change. It starts like it did with Zacchaeus, with the Lord reaching out to us, loving us, wanting to be involved in our lives.
That love that interest in what is happening with us changes us heals us, makes us complete. It is the granting of repentance, the transformation from sinner to saint.
And it comes to all believers, as God comes to us and says, let me come with you, and let’s feast together this day…
Its time for us now, to hear that invitation. We too have realized that we don’t know always choose to love God with all we are, to love our neighbor as ourselves. But He’s come to make that possible, to show us His love.
So come, and eat with Jesus. He’s come here to be with you today. Here.