We can understand a lot about finances from a vertically-challenged Bible character: the tax collector Zacchaeus. He sees Jesus coming up the way and he wants to see Him. In Luke 19:3, “He wanted to see who Jesus was, but being a short man he could not because of the crowd. He ran ahead and climbed a sycamore fig tree to see him since Jesus was coming that way. When Jesus reached the spot He immediately looked up and said to him ‘Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I must stay at your house today.’”
Jesus is walking along the way. Zacchaeus climbs a sycamore fig tree. I did a little research on these trees. They have big leaves so you can hide up in the tree. I’m not so sure Zacchaeus wanted to be seen. I kind of think he wanted to climb the tree discretely. A wealthy tax collector doesn’t want to be seen in a tree, first of all. I think he wants to see Jesus but I’m not sure he wants to be seen by Jesus. Jesus walks right up to him and says, “Zacchaeus, come down. We’re going to lunch and you’re buying.” The Bible says Zacchaeus was thrilled about that and he came down.
I love this story for this simple reason: Jesus goes to the last person in the entire city that you would expect Him to go. You think He would go to the religious people, the holy people, and the spiritual people. You would think He would go to the temple, the church of that day. No, He goes to Zacchaeus, the chief thug in the city. He’s the guy that everybody hates and despises. He says, “Come on down, Zacchaeus. You and I need to have a talk.” God’s heart is for people who are far from Him.
Here’s what I know, if Jesus would stop and talk to Zacchaeus then He will stop and invest in your life and in mine. If He would stop and have dinner with this guy who is on the wrong side of the tracks, who has done it all wrong, who has all kinds of baggage, history, and sin and mistakes then He’ll stop and He’ll interact with you and me when we lose our temper with our kids, when we say things we regret, when we get in a big fight with our spouse. The morning after we feel horrible. What I know is the same God who is willing to forgive Zacchaeus is willing to meet us along the road and forgive us. That is great news. That’s one of the things I love about this story. Of all the people Jesus goes to it’s Zacchaeus. Come on down and let’s get together.
When they got together one of the first things that must have come up in their conversation, based on the story, is money. The whole financial area of Zacchaeus’ life. His whole life had been about debt, tax, collecting.
Now in the spiritual sense as he is considering his relationship with God it’s about money again. Money is a spiritual issue in our lives. I’ve been this way – we say, “God I want you to be in my life but just don’t mess with the money side of my life.” I’m all for you. I love you and you’re great and good but just stay out of the money side of things. You live over here God but the money stuff is going to be over here.
I know how you are because I’m the same way. That can be our tendency in our lives. The Bible reveals again and again and again that money is a spiritual issue. That’s why Jesus talked about it more than heaven, more than prayer, more than hell, more than the church. That’s why Jesus says you can’t serve both God and money. You have to choose. He could have put anything else in the whole world up against God in that statement. You cannot serve both God and NASCAR. You cannot serve both God and football. Both God and scrap booking. But he says you cannot serve both God and money. That’s our tendency. We lean towards the money side and put our trust there. Money is a spiritual issue. As Zacchaeus begins to deal with God spiritually it’s the financial area that he’s called on to deal with.
Here is what he says in Luke 19:8, “Zacchaeus stood up and said to the Lord, ‘Look Lord, here and now I give half of my possessions to the poor and if I’ve cheated anybody out of anything I’ll pay back four times the amount.” Wow, what a change of heart. This guy is not only willing to give back to the poor but to pay back anybody that he’s wronged financially in their lives. What a statement.
The financial area is important. Friends, listen, for some of us in the room the most spiritual thing that we could do after church today is not go pray. It’s not reading the Bible. It’s not doing a lot of things that are spiritual. The most spiritual thing that some of us could do is face our financial condition, begin to get a plan, and face our debts.
For some of us, that is the most spiritual act that we could take today. For Zacchaeus that is what needed to happen in his life because he had gotten so turned upside down. There is not a standard that says, “Oh great, I have to give half my money to the poor.” This isn’t a principle – this is just what Zacchaeus was motivated to do. The principle is that money is a spiritual issue. We have to be willing to deal with that issue in our lives. He did deal with it and God moved in response to that.
If we are going to deal with it we need to deal with the credit card debt that gets us so upside down in our lives. What do we do? First we have to come to a place where we begin to pay it down. Think about this, we use credit in this country fifty-five million times a day, 2.2 million times an hour, 36, 242 times a minute, 640 times a second.
Think about that. We’re a culture that’s driven by credit. Over ninety million Americans have a revolving continual credit balance on their credit card. Here is what is interesting, one third of ninety million people say they hide that balance from their spouse. Do you know what happens when you start hiding? It’s a key indicator that your money has you – you don’t have your money. Your money is managing you now. You are not managing your money. Shame, guilt comes with that. We feel bad about it but we do it anyway. We feel like we are hiding and living with secrets. That’s where we are at today. God desires freedom for our lives. You can have freedom from lies. You can have freedom from the guilt. You can have freedom from the pressure by just beginning to live your life according to His principles of stewardship.