DANGEROUS LABELS

WEEK FIVE, DAY TWO, COMMON ENGLISH BIBLE COMPANION

WEEK FIVE THEME: STEWARDSHIP

DAY TWO THEME: MULTIPLY YOUR GIFTS

SCRIPTURE: LUKE 19:1-28 (CEB)

“Jesus entered Jericho and was passing through town.  A man there named Zacchaeus, a ruler among tax collectors, was rich.  He was trying to see who Jesus was, but, being a short man, he couldn’t because of the crowd.  So he ran ahead and climbed up a sycamore tree so he could see Jesus, who was about to pass that way. 

When Jesus came to that spot, he looked up and said, ‘Zacchaeus, come down at once.  I must stay in your home today.’  So Zacchaeus came down at once, happy to welcome Jesus.  Everyone who saw this grumbled, saying, ‘He has gone to be the guest of a sinner?’  Zacchaeus stopped and said to the Lord, ‘Look, Lord, I give half of my possessions to the poor.  And if I have cheated anyone, I repay them four times as much.’  Jesus said to him, ‘Today, salvation has come to this household because he too is a son of Abraham.  The Human One came to seek and save the lost.’ 

As they listened to this, Jesus told them another parable because he was near Jerusalem and they thought God’s kingdom would appear right away.  He said, ‘A certain man who was born into royalty went to a distant land to receive his kingdom and then return.  He called together ten servants and gave each of them money worth four months’ wages.  He said, “Do business with this until I return.”  His citizens hated him, so they sent a representative after him who said, “We don’t want this man to be our king.” 

After receiving his kingdom, he returned and called the servants to whom he had given the money to find out how much they had earned.  The first servant came forward and said, “Your money has earned a return of one thousand percent.”  The king replied, “Excellent! You are a good servant.  Because you have been faithful in a small matter, you will have authority over ten ciites.”  The second servant came and said, “Master, your money has made a return of five hundred percent.”  To this one, the king said, “You will have autority over five cities.”  Another servant came and said, “Master, here is your money.  I wraped it up in a scarf for safekeeping.  I was afraid of you because you are a stern man.  You withdraw what your haven’t deposited and you harvest what you haven’t planted.” 

The king replied, “I will judge you by the words of your own mouth, you worthless servant!  You knew, did you that I’m a stern man, withdrawing what I didn’t deposit, and harvesting what I didn’t plant?  Why then didn’t you put my money in the bank?  Then when I arrived, at least I could have gotten it back with interest.”  He said to his attendants, “Take his money and give it to the one who has ten times as much.”  “But Master,” they said, “he already has ten times as much!”  He replied, “I say to you that everyone who has will be given more, but from those who have nothing, even what they have will be taken away.  As for my enemies who don’t want me as their king, bring them here and slaughter them before me.”‘

After Jesus said this, he continued on ahead, going up to Jerusalem.”

THE WORD OF GOD FOR THE PEOPLE OF GOD – THANKS BE TO GOD!

SOAKING IT IN: Zacchaeus was a rich man, but unloved, even resented, in the eyes of the community. As a tax collector he is automatically lumped into the category of a thief.  So with Zacchaeus being a ruler among tax collectors, then he must be super bad, totally intolerable!  

When the crowd saw that Jesus was going home with Zacchaeus, they were disgruntled and couldn’t believe that he would be spending time with such a “sinner”.  I’ve always thought that Zacchaeus was changed after his time with Jesus, but I noticed today that Zacchaeus “stopped” upon the grumbling of his neighbors, and said to Jesus, “Look, Lord, I give half of my possessions to the poor.  And if I have cheated anyone, I repay them four times as much.” 

It is as if Zacchaeus is defending himself against the grumblers.  Jesus is pleased with the report from Zacchaeus and commends him  saying, “Today salvation has come to this household because he too is a son of Abraham.”  According to Zacchaeus’ defense and Jesus’ statment, Jesus has just met with someone this day who “gets” it.  Like Abraham and those of his children beyond him, he gives generously to the poor and repays any debt.  Zacchaeus was already doing kingdom work when Jesus showed up.  But because of his occupation, he was unfairly labeled as a dispicable person.

Their enconter was one of celebration because of the salvation that was already there.  Jesus confirmed Zacchaeus who served his role as a faithful steward rather than joining the ranks of the cheaters for personal gain.  The community had judged him for his occupation but had not known his heart.  Jesus found a good heart – one who was already about Kingdom living, giving HALF of all he had to the poor, and reimbursing any discrepancies up to four times over!  This is not a cheat and a liar – this man has the heart of God!

It must have been very hard on Zacchaeus to have lived among people who felt so much disdain for him.  Surely he must have wanted to shout his generosity out to any who would listen.  But we all know that in the eyes of human nature – things must always be as they seem and in those days there were no good tax collectors!  Therefore, the label is slapped on Zacchaeus and the lies are believed without anyone looking a pinch deeper to find the truth.

Likewise in the parable, Jesus shows appreciation for those who do the master’s work even when the circumstances are not favorable.  The ten servants of this royal ruler are given a job to do.  They are to do the job for a man that they do not like and that they are even afraid of.  The third servant is open and honest about the royal person to the royal person – “I was afraid because you are a stern man.  You withdraw what you haven’t deposited and you harvest what you haven’t planted.”  This servant wanted to do nothing with what he was put in charge of for fear of losing some of it and being punished.  His actions were not looked on favorably by the then king and all responsibilty was taken from him and seemingly unjustly given to the one who already had been awarded abundantly. In this hierarchial example of life – obedience is the issue here, not the just or unjustness of your “boss”. This earthly boss is not happy with those who resent him or fearful of him. All he cares about is his business and that is handled appropriately by those stewards he calls upon to do their job. The cast-out steward has poorly labeled his “boss” and now is left with nothing.

Some of the pairing is puzzling to me…. the story of Zacchaeus followed by the parable of the faithfulness.  But I can now see that Jesus has found Zacchaeus faithful even though it is known only between himself and God. He knows his “master” and serves him as a good and faithful steward regardless of what others think about him. Zacchaeus is happy to serve his (and our) good and just God even if he is the only one who knows it! Zacchaeus recognized the blessings that his occupation has given him and his faithfulness to the poor and those who have been wronged does not come from a human way of thinking.  His joy is complete even though his community does not understand him.

Jesus recognizes Zacchaeus as a son of Abraham. God told Abraham many times to take care of the traveler and the poor, for Abraham himself had been a foreigner and needy on many occasions and was blessed by others that he had not known.  God would have us live in the same manner.  First, we should never label another person as one way or the other – we do not know their heart.  Only God knows the heart of his followers and recognizes his own.  By labeling others, we deprive ourselves from what may be a very good influence in our living.  Secondly, we are all to listen to the heart of God in all of our living.  When we are in need, we recognize how God responds to our need in real and unimaginable ways. Then, going forward, how can we be used to provide for the needs of those who cross our path?

Our attention to the details of God’s desire for all of his children will bless us many times over.  Zacchaeus had a clean heart when he met Jesus.  He did his job well and tried to be just in all of his affairs.  How does Jesus find me as he stops by my house. Am I withholding and relishing my good fortune with a stack of good intentions, or will I be sharing from all that I have been given with the needs of other as God lays them on my heart?  

We are blessed to be a blessing – just like Abraham!  Let us do so!

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