January 26-28, 2013
Pastor Timothy J. Spaude
Text: Luke 19:1-10
“BIG LESSONS FROM A LITTLE MAN”
1. He knew himself.
2. He knew his Savior.
3. He knew how to honor God with his wealth.
Luke 19:1-10 (NIV 1984) “Jesus entered Jericho and was passing through. 2 A man was there by the name of Zacchaeus; he was a chief tax collector and was wealthy. 3 He wanted to see who Jesus was, but being a short man he could not, because of the crowd. 4 So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore-fig tree to see him, since Jesus was coming that way.5 When Jesus reached the spot, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I must stay at your house today.” 6 So he came down at once and welcomed him gladly.7 All the people saw this and began to mutter, “He has gone to be the guest of a ‘sinner.’”8 But Zacchaeus stood up and said to the Lord, “Look, Lord! 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.”9 Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because this man, too, is a son of Abraham. 10 For the Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost.”
We are all probably familiar with this Bible Story since we’ve heard it since we’ve been wee ones. Zacchaeus was a wee little man and a wee little man was he. Yet he is included on the pages of Holy Scripture for our learning and understanding. There are some big lessons we can learn from this little man.
The first is that he knew himself. What do we know about him? Zacchaeus lived at a time when Roman government controlled the Jewish people. One of the things Rome was very interested in getting from people they conquered was taxes. They were smart about it, too. They hired native people to collect the taxes, people who knew the ways their own people might try to hide money. Tax collectors then were considered to be traitors. They also we often thieves. Not much new. Back then people also thought they were underpaid and found ways to get what they felt deserved. Tax collectors often used the threat of Roman soldiers to extort just a little more from their people then they actually owed and became quite wealthy. Was Zacchaeus like that? Well Luke tells us Zachaeus was a chief tax collector and was wealthy. The people labeled him a “sinner.” It seems Zachaeus knew this too. We aren’t given a glimpse inside his heart. We see his actions and words. He talks about cheating others. He goes to great lengths to see Jesus. He recognized his sinfulness. He knew himself.
He also knew his Savior. Again we aren’t able to see his heart but we get a glimpse by looking at his actions. Jesus was coming. Zacchaeus wanted to see Jesus. Why? What did he know about him? Had he heard about Jesus as the one who welcomed sinners? The one who gave those labeled “sinners” another chance? We don’t know but he wanted to see Jesus. There were some inconveniences in his way. Others wanted to see Jesus. The crowds were there. He was short. He was resourceful. Up the sycamore tree he went. And then, and then, Jesus stopped right underneath him. Gulp! Busted! Now what was going to happen? “Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I must stay at your house today.” 6 So he came down at once and welcomed him gladly.” While Zacchaeus the sinner was just hoping to see Jesus, Jesus had bigger plans for him. Jesus sought him out. “Today salvation has come to this house, because this man, too, is a son of Abraham. 10 For the Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost.” Jesus was His Savior and showed it by His words to Zacchaeus and his actions staying at Zacchaeus’ house. Zacchaeus knew his Savior.
And once he knew his Savior he knew how to honor God with his wealth. “Zacchaeus stood up and said to the Lord, “Look, Lord! 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.” I don’t know what kind of money manager Zacchaeus was before this. From his reaction and what we are told it is likely he had stolen to get his wealth instead of earning it honorably. It is likely he was not a generous man. He was not loved by the rest of the people and people who are not loved usually have a hard time showing love. But the presence of Jesus in his life changed things. Now he wanted to use his money in a way that was pleasing to Jesus. He would do things the right way. Where he had cheated someone he would pay restitution, with interest, four times what had been stolen. He would be generous to those in need. Half of his horde would be used to help the poor. He knew now how to honor God with his wealth.
Big lessons from a little man. Let’s apply them. Brother, sister, do you know yourself? Do you look at yourself regularly in the mirror of God’s word? Do you have your eyes open when you do so that you see a sinner that the Lord should not even eat with? When you speak the words of confession owning up to countless sins, do you mean them or are they just words? I guess it boils down to is this: do you see yourself as a little sinner needing a little help from a little Savior, or like the little man Zacchaeus do you see yourself as a big sinner entirely helpless in need of a gigantic Savior. Do you know yourself?
Do you know your Savior? Is He such a source of hope that you want to go to great lengths just to see Him? Does the thought that Jesus loves you so much in spite of everything He knows about you leave you in awe? Does the picture of Jesus on the cross dying for your sins bring that paradoxical feeling of sadness and honor that Jesus would have to and want to do this for me? Does the prospect that He, Jesus, King of kings and Lord of lords, would look at the way you have handled the talents He has entrusted to you and might possibly say to you one day, “Well done good and faithful servant,” send chills down your spine? Do you know your Savior?
Do you know how to and want to honor God with your wealth? Last year at St. Jacobi we started a three year program on honoring God. We used as our model the Old Testament priest Phineas who was so zealous for the honor of God’s name that he used a spear to put an end to mocking God’s name by bringing immorality into the Israelite camp. God was pleased that Phineas was zealous for His honor. He blessed Phineas. We have the same Savior God. We have all the same reasons to be zealous for His honor. So we said, “Let’s do that.” The emphasis last year was to raise the level of honor for God with word and worship. Our hoped for goals were greater respect for God’s Word and more frequent use of it, greater prioritization on public worship and more faithful attendance.
Our emphasis for the second year of our Honoring God program is to honor God with our wealth. Please be clear, this is a whole lot bigger than our offerings to God here at St. Jacobi. Just like God does not just own the one hour a week we spend in public worship but cares just as much how we spend all the hours He has entrusted to us, God does not just own or care about our thankofferings at church. All of our wealth belongs to Him. We will want to use all of our wealth in a way that honors Him. And we all have wealth. Oh, it may not feel like that some times. We may not have any leftover at the end of the month. Yet the amount of money that God has entrusted to our care each month compared to what He entrusts most of the people of our world with is huge.
Like Zacchaeus we will need to look at our past and current practices for handling money to see if they honor God. Where they don’t zealousness for the honor of God demands a change. Some examples. We can point fingers at our federal government that can’t seem to pass a budget, but do we all pass a budget each year? Do we have a plan so that we don’t spend more than we make? We can point fingers at the foolishness of the federal government for continuing to rack up the national debt, 16.5 trillion and counting, but are we racking up debt in our own financial houses? I’m not talking about debt caused by some emergency or planned debt for a house, student loans, maybe a car, but debt because we spend what we don’t have on what we want. We can point fingers at all levels of government for what seems to be wasteful ways of spending money but do we do the same with the result that we try to get more by taking from what is important, underreporting income on our taxes, nothing left to give to those in need, an inability to be generous toward others, and then giving God a less than honorable portion of our income for our thankofferings? When you pick up your offering statement for 2012 and compare it to your annual income as you do your taxes you’ll want it to show that you are honoring God.
With the Lord begin your task. We can’t honor God with our wealth without the help the Lord provides. As Jesus changed Zacchaeus heart so he could have a changed life Jesus needs to change ours. Anything we do on the outside is meaningless if the motivation on the inside is not God pleasing. That’s why even though our second year of Honoring God emphasizes honoring God with our wealth we can’t leave behind honoring God with word and worship. This is where He strengthens us. This is where He motivates us. This is where Jesus dines with us. This is where we hear Jesus proclaim “Salvation has come to your house today.” Then we can respond. Now let’s commit this task to the Lord in prayer. Amen.