I heard a story as a kid that has really stuck with me. Bird Dog: ”That dog is the only one who has actually seen the bird. The other dogs are just caught up in his excitement, but simply sharing in his excitement can’t motivate them to keep going when the pursuit gets difficult.”
That reminds me of what happens in the church. A church is this big movement of people. A lot of people are excited, many are sacrificing, but a lot of people get so swept up in the excitement that they never actually see the vision. And so they never make it to the end.
To change analogies on you, because I’m going to use both of these today: balloon smacking. God wants you to become the kind of person who soars spiritually without needing to be smacked.
Luke 19:1-10: [Jesus] entered Jericho and was passing through. And behold, there was a man named Zacchaeus. He was a chief tax collector and was rich.
Chief tax collector: Tax collector is probably not going to be on anybody’s list of favorite jobs today (I read an article where the term ”IRS agent” had become so unpopular that they introduced a new name: ”tax policy compliance directors”- Yeah, that’s a lot better). But back then, a tax collector was more than just an unpopular government official, a tax collector was considered a traitor and a thief.
When the Romans took over a city, they wanted to tax the city pretty heavily. But they knew that if they transplanted a Roman official there to collect the tax, he’d never really understand the city well enough to know where all the money was hidden.
So, the Romans hired someone from the city, a native, who knew the city well, to collect the tax for them. And they told them, ”This is how much we want. Anything you get beyond that you can keep for yourself.” And they would give them a squad of soldiers to help them enforce the tax.
These guys would extract huge sums of money from their own people for Rome, and in the process keep a bunch of money for themselves and get filthy rich! And if people did not comply, they would have them beaten, or even murdered. And they were doing this for Rome against their neighbors, and friends, and people they grew up with.
Can you imagine a worse person? The Jewish Mishnah said that a tax collector was so loathsome that they should not even be considered human, and that it was not a sin to lie to them because lying to an animal is not a sin.
And Zacchaeus is not just a tax collector; he is the chief tax collector, or the ”arche telonis.” Let me ask you this: How much did money have to have a hold on Zacchaeus’ heart to cause him to live like this? No one betrays his people naturally. This is a man so possessed by the love of money he’s willing to lie, cheat, steal, and sell out his closest relationships to get it.
3And he was seeking to see who Jesus was, but on account of the crowd he could not, because he was small of stature. 4So he ran on ahead and climbed up into a sycamore tree to see him, because Jesus was about to pass that way. Zacchaeus, you see, was a wee little man, and a wee little man was he. And he’s trying to get a glimpse of Jesus, but he can’t, because he is vertically challenged.
Now, here’s the thing: When a guy is short, you don’t mind if he stands in front of you. But this crowd wont let Zacchaeus in anywhere, because they hate him. Hip check. They are like, ”We’re not moving for you; you disgusting pig; you wee little bad man.”
So, he climbs up in the sycamore tree for the Lord he wanted to see.
Real quick: To those of you who are searching: Don’t let Jesus’ hypocritical, judgmental, self-righteous admirers keep you from getting a glimpse of Jesus here. Maybe you’re here this weekend you’re intrigued by Jesus, but maybe you’re also turned off by some one in the church who is hypocritical or judgmental.
Zacchaeus had to climb a tree to get ”above” Jesus’ followers to see Jesus. And maybe you need to do the same.
5And when Jesus came to the place, he looked up and said to him, ”Zacchaeus, hurry and come down, for I must stay at your house today.”
I’m not sure if you catch how bizarre this is. Jesus is one of the most well-known people in Israel. He’s a celebrity, by this point. And he’s going to Israel’s most powerful city, Jericho. Think New York City. He doesn’t ask to meet with the mayor of New York City-Bill de Blasio; or the chief priest-Tim Keller. He chooses the most despised, unpopular, man in the whole city-the wee, little wicked man, Zacchaeus.
Of all the names for Jesus, ”friend of sinners” is perhaps my favorite. Jesus, what a friend of sinners; Jesus, lover of my soul.
6So (Zacchaeus) hurried and came down and received him joyfully. 7And when they saw it, they all grumbled, ”He has gone in to be the guest of a man who is a sinner.”
You see, there is a scandalous order to this story. In that day, to eat with someone-to go to their house and share a meal-was a sign of very intimate fellowship. It meant that you were accepting them, that you were committing yourself to a loving relationship with them.
Jesus is extending this invitation to Zacchaeus before he cleans up his life.?
And so the Pharisees, vs. 7, are like, ”What? He’s eating with a guy who is a sinner?” (not was, is).? If Zaccaheus had cleaned up his life and then Jesus had gone, over they probably would not have objected. But Jesus goes to eat with him first.
Jesus is teaching Zacchaeus the difference between the gospel and religion.?
Every other religion in the world says, ”Change, clean up, and God will accept you.” The gospel reverses that. It says, ”God has offered acceptance to you; in light of that invitation, change.”
In the gospel, God’s acceptance is not the reward for having cleaned up your life; it’s the power to actually clean up.
You see, watch this: 8And Zacchaeus stood and said to the Lord, ”Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor. And if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I restore it fourfold.” 9And Jesus said to him, ”Today salvation has come to this house.”
Salvation has come to this house. Religion points outward and says, ”Zacchaeus, go do that and you’ll obtain salvation.” But Jesus’ gospel is ”Zacchaeus, salvation has come to your house. It just walked in, freely, as a gift. In response to that, you’ll change!”
And oh, what a change it brought!
Anyone he’d stolen from, he restored fourfold.?
The Levitical law said that if you stole from someone and got caught, you were supposed to repay them and add 20%. There was only one situation in which you’d repay back 4 times, and that is if you stole someone’s cow. Because, you know, that caused ‘udder’ financial ruin.
Zacchaeus is not giving this money back because he has to, but because he wants to.
And there is nothing in the Bible about giving away 50%. That’s just gravy. In fact, nowhere in this story does Jesus give any direct commands about money. Zacchaeus does it freely!
And when I read this, I hear Zacchaeus almost sounding giddy. ”Look, Lord, half my goods I give to the poor. Look dad, no hands! Whee!!!”
The guy that was willing to sell out his family to get money is now giving it away like it’s Halloween candy. What has happened to Zacchaeus?
Money no longer had a hold on him. Wee little Zacchaeus had found a greater treasure than money: Jesus. He saw that Jesus was a greater God than money could ever be!
Jesus loved Zacchaeus. Money couldn’t do that; Zacchaeus could love it, but it could never love him back.
Jesus forgave Zacchaeus and pursued him after Zacchaeus had failed him. Money couldn’t and wouldn’t do that. Money said, ”If you fail me, I’ll leave you behind. You’ll be miserable forever!” So you better alienate your family, if that’s what it takes to get me. Get me at all costs.”
Jesus was establishing a kingdom that would last forever. Zacchaeus knew that money couldn’t do that. He knew his money would die with him. The smallest virus threatens to take away the greatest possessions of the richest man. Jesus showed power over sickness and over the grave. He spoke and lame men walked; the blind saw; and dead men came out graves.
Psalm 16:10: ”…fullness of joy; pleasures forevermore.” fullness of joy: highest joy; pleasures forevermore: longest duration. He got just a taste of that, and when he did, money lost its hold on him, and so he gave it away-to do justice, and to help the poor.
”Expulsive power of a new affection.” Our affections and awe of Jesus becomes so large that all the lesser attractions are brought into order; our captivity to him is so strong that all other captivities are broken!
Turn your eyes upon Jesus, look full in his wonderful face.
A Few Lessons for Us: Money problems usually come from money idolatry. ?• Idolatry is when something has become so important to you that you crave it, depend on it, and couldn’t be happy without it.
Zacchaeus worshipped money as the greatest thing life had to offer, so he was willing to steal, lie, and hurt his own people because he loved money more than anything.?You may or may not do all of those things. But Paul says, in 1 Timothy, that the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil. Here are some of the things we do:
Cheating (i.e., taxes, time card). Overspending (debt): You’ve got to have a standard of living. Overworking.
Making stupid life decisions: husbands and wives who rip their families out of community, a good church, and move them halfway around the country to a place where they don’t have things just so they can make a little more money! Coveting: eaten up with jealousy. You see what other people have and it bothers you. You wish it didn’t, but it does! Refusing to give God the first fruits: Tithing vs. first fruits. 10% is a great place to start.
Not being generous: Two personality types of Matthew 6. If you are not a generous person, ask yourself this: when it comes to the future-to what do you primarily look to take care of you? Money, or God? If it’s primarily money, and that’s why you can’t place it all under Jesus’ authority-to put it before him and say, ”Jesus this is all yours; I’ll do whatever you tell me to do with it,” then you are a money idolater, a money worshipper.
A biblical vision for (your) money: Smart: spend carefully (track it!). Wise: save regularly. Generous: give extravagantly.1
You’ll never do all three of those things until you quit worshipping money.
Only an experience with the gospel changes our heart’s attitudes toward money.
Zacchaeus didn’t become generous because Jesus commanded him to (do you see a command in there?); he became generous because he wanted to. See how many times the word ”joyfully” is in there? This was not about law; it was about love!
One afternoon with Jesus did more than 10,000 sermons on the law of generosity! The gospel does what thousands of sermons on generosity cannot do-it actually changes your heart, releasing you from your captivity to money, making you love others, delighting to see their needs met and introduced to the gospel.
Zacchaeus didn’t sit through a sermon on generosity; he soaked in the grace of Jesus, and that did more than 10,000 sermons could ever do.
We, even more than Zacchaeus, have experienced the grace of the gospel. Jesus’ last statement in this story explains the relevance of the story for us, 10For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.”
We see in Zacchaeus’ story our story; we get a picture of what Jesus did for us.
Zacchaeus deserved to be despised; yet Jesus invited him into the warmth of fellowship, paying him the highest social compliment of his day-he came to eat with him!
This is what Jesus did for us: We deserved scorn; God gave us grace. We deserved rejection; God invited us in to fellowship.
Isaiah 51:17: He drank the cup of judgment; so that we got the cup of joy.
Zacchaeus climbed a tree because he was despised. Jesus would die, hanging up on a tree. Deut. 21:23, ”Cursed (despised) is everyone who is hung on a tree,” and the Jews regarded everyone who died hanging on a tree to be cursed, forsaken by God.
Do you see what happened? Jesus traded places with Zacchaeus. Zacchaeus got the warmth of fellowship because Jesus got the scorn of derision. Zacchaeus got the joy; Jesus got the pain.
”But all we like sheep have gone astray, we have turned every one to his own way; but the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.”
Jesus, what a friend of sinners; Jesus, lover of my soul. Friends may fail me, foes assail me, but he, my Savior, makes me whole!
Just a small taste of that turned Zacchaeus into the most generous man in the New Testament.
How much more should our experience of the gospel change us? He got just a crumb. We get the feast!
The only way our wee little stingy fearful hearts will change is by looking at the cross. And when that happens you won’t need to be commanded to give, like Zacchaeus, you’ll just give, without a command!
Listen: That is the mark of a person who has been touched by the gospel. They don’t need to be made to feel guilty to be generous, or to hear a stirring sermon series. They just do it naturally!
In Hebrew, ”generosity” literally means ”to saturate with water.” Water is a symbol of life. You are to overflow in a way that brings life to people.
In Greek, generosity means ”ready to distribute” – ready to give time, talent and treasure to bless others.2
When the gospel touches you, you become that way because that’s how Jesus is: full of grace for you. Though he was rich, yet for your sakes (2 Cor 8:9). Though he was God, for our sakes he took upon himself the form of a servant (Phil 2). Though he knew no sin, he became sin for us, so that we (2 Cor 5).
When you meet him, and experience him, you fall so in love with him that you become like him. As he was to you, you become to others. And you don’t just become generous for a season; you become generous for a lifetime.?You don’t need to be smacked up into generosity; you just soar spiritually.
And you’re not generous in one area; you become generous in all areas-generous with your time, talents, forgiveness.
I’ve told you; if you are generous in only one area, you are simply responding to a guilt need. When the gospel touches you, you become generous in all areas. Those people who truly experience the gospel become like the gospel. Full of grace.
People who ask, ”How much do I have to give?” don’t get it. Many of us ask: How much is enough to get God off my back? To fulfill my duty? To make God happy with me? Here’s why people who ask that don’t get it: Gospel giving is about love, not law, not about ?percentages, but about a person. o Zacchaeus is pouring out his money, freely, as a love offering to God.
God doesn’t need your money! People who ask (”How much do I have to give”) have what Chip Ingram calls ”small pie syndrome.” The small-pie syndrome says there’s only so much to go around, and if I give away this piece of the pie, there’s very little left for me… but God needs it so I’ll give it. But that’s less for me!
The flaw in that thinking is that the kingdom of God is full of big pies that multiply.3 God doesn’t need your pie; nor does giving away part of your pie mean you’ve given away your ability to take care of yourself, because God takes care of you. ?
Instead, gospel giving is about worship, and joy.? 2 Corinthians 9:7 says that God loves cheerful givers. Why? ?If God had needs, he wouldn’t care why you gave. Landlord-doesn’t care motives for writing out the check. IRS: give cheerfully?
God only loves cheerful giving because giving is about worship, not meeting his needs.
And for that reason, sacrifice is a necessary part of gospel offering. Because it’s not about meeting God’s needs, it’s about expressing the worship and gratitude of your heart! David: I will not give unto the Lord that which costs me nothing!
God measures our generosity not by the size of the gift but by the size of our sacrifice.4
Sacrifice expresses the affections of our heart to God. Alabaster flask.
Examples from our church last year: Delaying the purchase of a car or additions to the house. Sold a recreational tool, like golf clubs. Gave up a piece of jewelry to help with adoption. Several canceled cable service. Stopped eating out. Took less vacation. 1 who gave away a vacation home.
Everybody in our church ought to have something they sacrifice.
I can’t tell you what it is; I can tell you that you should live a generous lifestyle, and that you should listen specifically for the Spirit of God to guide you.
Ask him, and see what he says!
Prayer time: 2 Cor 8:9: ”Remember the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet, for your sake, he became poor; that we, through his poverty, might become rich.” Ephesians 6:19: ”Pray for me, that opportunities may be given to me, that I may open my mouth boldly to make known the mystery of the gospel.”