The Lawman and the Extortionist
A rich man had an encounter with the living God and chose his wealth and possessions over eternity with God. It is not his possessions that kept him from entering the kingdom of God, it was his love for his possessions. His hope was in himself, in his ability to earn his way into heaven. This man kept all the commandments except the most important one – he didn’t love God with all his heart, with all his soul, and with all his mind.
And behold, a man came up to Him, saying, “Teacher, what good deed must I do to have eternal life?” And He said to him, “Why do you ask me about what is good? There is only one who is good. If you would enter life, keep the commandments.” He said to Him, “Which ones?” And Jesus said “You shall not murder, you shall not commit adultery, you shall not steal, you shall not bear false witness, honor your mother and father, and you shall love your neighbor as yourself.” The young man said to Him, “All these I have kept. What do I still lack?” Jesus said to him, “If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” When the young man heard this he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions. (Matthew 19:16-22)
Zacchaeus was a profiteering thief who got wealthy by extorting money from his countrymen. He likely knew there was no hope for him. When he encountered Jesus, he responded to the prompting of the Holy Spirit and accepted Jesus’ invitation. What we see here is not Zacchaeus buying his way into heaven, we see a man whose heart has been forever changed by the grace of God. What we see is an outpouring of gratitude and repentance as a result of God’s gift of mercy and salvation.
He entered Jericho and was passing through. And behold, there was a man named Zacchaeus. He was a chief tax collector and was rich. And he was seeking to see who Jesus was, but on account of the crowd he could not, because he was small in stature. So he ran on ahead and climbed up into a sycamore tree to see Him, for He was about to pass that way. And 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.” So he hurried and came down and received Him joyfully. And when they saw it, they all grumbled, “He has gone in to be the guest of a man who is a sinner. And 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. And Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, since he also is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.” (luke 19:1-10)
The greatest commandment is to love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your strength, and all your mind (Luke 10:27). To love God means, among other things, to want Him, more than we want anything else, all the time. This doesn’t necessarily mean that His children are to sell everything they own and live an austere life (unless our things are more important to us than both God and His people). It means that all things, our money, our house, our car, our stuff, our retirement, are as rubbish when compared to Him and His Glory. With man, this kind of love, the kind of love God requires, is impossible. The capacity to love God is a gift of love from God, who is love. Our love for God is our response to His love for us. Our love for God is our response to what He has done for us, in us, and to us. Our love for God is the result of a heart that has been regenerated, brought back to life, by the grace of God. Do you love God? Do you look more like the lawman or the extortionist?