‘Today salvation has come to this house, because this man, too, is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost.’ (Luke 19:9-10)
The ‘tax man’ in New Testament Times was hated even more than today, for the tax system was open to blatant abuse. A rich man bought the right to gather taxes for a particular area in exchange for a fixed payment to Rome. For Rome, this had the advantage of getting taxes ‘up front’; for the tax collector, of having Rome and its soldiers now support his tax demands on others – including the surcharge added for his profit. This is how Zacchaeus had spent his life and had become very rich through it.
But when Jesus called him from the tree that he had climbed into to see this passing rabbi, Zacchaeus found his whole life touched – and, with it, his money. Proof of change indeed! He said, ‘Here and now I give half of my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount’ (Luke 19:8). Can you imagine the cheer that went up in Jericho that day!
While we certainly cannot buy God’s favour, showing that we have truly changed will sometimes cost us. For Zacchaeus, it meant giving back what he had cheated people out of; for converts in Ephesus, it meant burning their expensive parchment scrolls about sorcery - fifty thousand drachmas’ worth (and since a drachma was a day’s wage, that was a huge sum!). But whenever we take this sort of step, there is always a great sense of ‘salvation coming to our house’, just like Zacchaeus experienced. Sometimes the cost of change seems just too much for some people, like the rich young man who, rather than owning his money, as he thought, found that it owned him and that he could not let it go, and so ‘went away sad’ (Matthew 19:22).
If God has been challenging you to change in some way, don’t go away sad like the rich young man; take the risk, like Zacchaeus, and bring joy to yourself and to others.
‘If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.’ (Matthew 19:21)
Copyright © 2017 Martin Manser and Mike Beaumont