1 He entered Jericho and was passing through. 2 There was a man named Zacchaeus who was a chief tax collector, and he was rich. 3 He was trying to see who Jesus was, but he was not able because of the crowd, since he was a short man. 4 So running ahead, he climbed up a sycamore tree to see Jesus, since he was about to pass that way. 5 When Jesus came to the place, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, hurry and come down because today it is necessary for me to stay at your house.” 6 So he quickly came down and welcomed him joyfully. 7 All who saw it began to complain,† “He’s gone to stay with a sinful man.” 8 But Zacchaeus stood there and said to the Lord, “Look, I’ll give half of my possessions to the poor,† Lord. And if I have extorted† anything from anyone, I’ll pay back four times as much.”
Too often as Christians, we are inclined to shun those whom we consider to be sinful and not living up to the moral standards we have established for ourselves and within our group of Christian friends. We sometimes forget the many examples Jesus provided to us in the Gospels of the importance of loving our neighbors. We can be tempted to distance ourselves from people we consider unrighteous and therefore perhaps unworthy of our friendship. Instead, we need to be a light to them in a world filled with much darkness.
In the first few verses of Luke 19, we are introduced to Zacchaeus, the chief tax collector of the Roman district surrounding Jericho. Zacchaeus was a wealthy man who had gained much of his wealth by means of extortion, that is, by collecting more tax than was due from the Jewish citizens in the region. As a result, he was a despised man, avoided and rejected by the Jewish leaders and the citizens of Jericho. But even knowing this man was a sinner, Jesus called out to Zacchaeus, who had climbed a sycamore tree to see Him as He passed through the city.
Many in the crowd in Jericho were outraged that Jesus chose to stay with this man instead of with a priest or someone they considered more worthy. But Zacchaeus humbly showed remorse for his sins and offered to give half of all his possessions to the poor, even paying back four times the amount he had stolen from anyone. Jesus lovingly accepted his repentance, thereby modeling to us the importance of loving and forgiving the people we encounter in our world today.
These passages in Luke remind us to reach out to others in our communities and neighborhoods, regardless of how we may feel about their sinfulness or way of life. May the story of Jesus’ love for Zacchaeus encourage us to reach out to those who need to hear about the love, forgiveness and salvation that is available to them through Jesus Christ.
Questions to Ask Yourself
- Have I had recent opportunities to reach out to people in my community whom I may have considered sinful or unrighteous—and yet declined to do so? What kept me from showing them the love Jesus had for Zacchaeus?
- Am I possibly too judgmental of others I encounter because they have different moral standards than mine? How does this get in the way of my ability to love them and share the gospel with them?
- How can I be more Christ-like today in how I approach strangers and others I may consider unworthy due to their sinfulness? Do I need to pray for more humility and greater love for those who are lost?
Pray for N and B global workers in our church family, serving in North Africa/Middle East. Pray for spiritual, physical, mental, and emotional health as they navigate marriage and ministry. Pray for fruitful ministry, sweet fellowship with the Lord, and that they would be sustained by His Word.