Zacchaeus the Honest Tax Collector
I have always understood the story of Zacchaeus to be one of a corrupt tax collector who after being saved gives back what he had stolen, that was up until yesterday.
I listen to Pray-as-you-go each morning as part of my daily devotions. They positioned the story of Zacchaeus in a very different light, one that has a powerful meaning for me both individually and as a parent.
Consider the story of Zacchaeus this way, that he:
- was an honest man doing a very difficult job under the watchful eye of an oppressive regime.
- believed himself to be corrupt because he was told all tax collectors are corrupt.
- was always considered worthy by Jesus and no more sinful then other Jews.
- His low self-worth prevented him from believing in Christ’s ability to forgive him without some form of sacrifice – giving money away from his own pocket.
Luke 19: 1- 10
19 Jesus entered Jericho and was passing through. 2 A man was there by the name of Zacchaeus; he was a chief tax collector and was wealthy. 3 He wanted to see who Jesus was, but because he was short he could not see over the crowd. 4 So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore-fig tree to see him, since Jesus was coming that way.5 When Jesus reached the spot, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I must stay at your house today.” 6 So he came down at once and welcomed him gladly.7 All the people saw this and began to mutter, “He has gone to be the guest of a sinner.”8 But 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 have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount.”9 Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because this man, too, is a son of Abraham. 10 For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.”
Read this way the story of Zacchaeus teaches a different lesson. The first is one of self-awareness and forgiveness while the second is the power of words to destroy our belief in ourselves and what we can expect from life.
I have a Zacchaeus like story. In grade three we were to write a fictional story as a school project. I remember pouring my soul into this story and having confidence that I had done a good job. I handed in my two-page story with great expectation of the teacher’s feedback. At the appointed time, the teacher took the papers and ripped them in half and my shock at this prevented me from understanding why. From that point in my life, I have believed myself to be a poor writer and like Zacchaeus I expect to be passed by.
I have three degrees, so I know intellectually that I can write and feedback on my writing tells me I do it well. I have also spent at least 45 years not writing for others.
As teachers, parents and grandparents we can learn from the story of Zacchaeus how damaging our words can be when we place labels on our children.
Zacchaeus was a corrupt tax collector because all tax collectors were corrupt and Zacchaeus believed himself to be as a result.
I believed I could not write because a teacher destroyed my work along with the rest of the class.
When we talk to our children we need to be careful to not use labels and to describe to them behaviours or outcomes that are displeasing to never name them as displeasing.
Example:You are full of potential and can be anything you strive to be. And, when you call other children on bus names you are behaving like a bully. I know you to be more than this. Tell me how come you call them names?