There was a guy in first-century Israel who enjoyed the security of money. Because he was good at his job, he had a large security blanket—a nice-sized nest egg. Zacchaeus may have been small in stature, but he was high on the hog. He was on top of a prosperous tax collecting pyramid. As collectors under him made money, he received a portion.
I imagine it was a little bit surprising to the lower ranking collectors when they found out that Zacchaeus, their financial leader, wanted to hang out with a homeless man, Jesus. And the religious people were equally shocked that Jesus would stay in the house of a “sinner.”
This is one of those stories that I wish included more detail. We know the part about Zacchaeus climbing the tree and the interaction he and Jesus had on the road. We also know the conclusion of the story. But we do not know what Jesus said to Zacchaeus in the meantime. We do not know what conversations they shared over meals. We do not know if Zacchaeus came to the sycamore-fig tree looking for a new way of life or looking for the latest spectacle. We just do not know.
Somewhere in their conversations, the subject of money comes up. Somewhere between the roadside tree and the parting steps out of the house, Jesus talks to this man about his financial practices. Apparently, he helps Zacchaeus realize that his financial practices are intimately tied to his spiritual experiences. Taking and hoarding is affecting his relationship with God. So Zacchaeus boldly steps through the curtain of fear and proclaims, “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 19:80).
At that point, Jesus makes one of those statements that are almost hard to believe. He says something so shocking that the disciples probably would not have believed it if they had not heard it firsthand. Jesus replies, “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).
Salvation? Are you kidding me? The man gives back what was not even rightfully his, and Jesus says this is the door to salvation?
Well, not exactly. Jesus said salvation came to the house of Zacchaeus because he was a child of Abraham. In other words, he was a man of faith. He had more faith in Jesus, a previously unknown Savior, than he did in the coins in his pocket. He had enough faith to risk his financial security for the good of others. And to demonstrate this trust, he took the coins out of his pocket and gave them away.
The Master, the Father, was pleased. Zacchaeus was imitating the Savior. Well done, good and faithful servant.
Question: Where are you placing your trust?