Archive for June 11th, 2007

Just Another Rich Sinner

Monday, June 11th, 2007

Today’s scripture: Luke 19:1-10 (NRSV) (The Message)

As you read, consider these questions: What might God be saying to me in this passage? What jumps out at me? Summarize your thoughts in a sentence or two before reading on.

My thoughts on this passage (Tyler Connoley):

This story seems pretty simple. Zacchaeus was a bad man — a rich tax collector — who was inspired by Jesus to repent of his wicked ways. Jesus offered him salvation, and the people of Jericho witnessed a moment of redemption in their midst.

This is the traditional interpretation of Luke 19:1-10, but I’d like to offer another way of reading this story. Perhaps, rather than being a story of a wicked man repenting of his sins, this is a story of an innocent man being falsely accused by people who chose to stereotype him rather than get to know him.

Read verses 1 through 7 again, and see what evidence there is that Zacchaeus was a bad man. The writer says he was a tax collector, rich, and short. Certainly, in a Hollywood movie, all of these would be signs he was a villain — probably played by Danny DeVito. We read Luke’s description and jump to the same conclusion as the townspeople: “Jesus has gone to be the guest of one who is a sinner.”

But then Zacchaeus stands to speak.

In the original Greek, Zacchaeus’ speech is best translated in the present tense. He says, “Look, half of my possessions, Lord, I give to the poor; and if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I pay back four times as much.”

What if, instead of promising to change his ways, Zacchaeus was defending his honor? In response to the grumbling of the townspeople, he said, “Look, I may be a rich tax collector, but I give half my money to the poor! And if I find out I’ve defrauded anyone, I pay them back — four times as much. I’m not the evil person these people think I am!”

Jesus’ response might then be a subtle rebuke of those who misjudged Zacchaeus: “Today salvation has come to this house, because he too is a son of Abraham.” Like the townspeople, we’ve spent centuries judging Zacchaeus because of his position and wealth, but Jesus saw him for who he really was — a child of Abraham.

Thought for the day: Jesus said he came to seek and to save the lost, but he hasn’t lost anyone, we have. Who have you counted as lost, simply because of how she looks, how much money she has, or what job she does? Can you take a second look, and see that person through Jesus’ eyes, as a child of God?

We encourage you to include a time of prayer with this reading. Use the item above as a starting point, or consider the guidelines on the How to Pray page.

"Be still, and know that I am God." Psalm 46:10
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