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Why a lying, cheating, taxman gave back four times what he stole.
Have you ever lodged a tax return?
On every single occasion that I have sent one in over the past 10+ years I have received money back from the government. Except one time.
I was a uni student. That year I had to pay the government extra tax at the end of the year because I hadn’t paid enough throughout the prior financial year.
I forgot to pay it.
So... at the end of the calendar year the tax collector came to visit.
In the old days they would knock on your door, but now they only knock on your door if you owe millions. I didn’t owe millions. So they sent me a letter instead.
The letter was very encouraging. Basically they wanted to help me. The letter gave me a whole bunch of options on how they could help me to pay off the loan. Did I need financial assistance? Financial advice? A longer period to pay off the total? They gave me a number of hotlines to ring depending on my scenario. I was really impressed with the letter! How much did I owe? $5.27… that’s all! I didn’t need any advice… I just needed a kick up the pants to remind me to pay it! $5.27. I didn’t really need all the options that they offered – but I thought that the tax collector was being nice nonetheless.
Nice isn’t a word you’d use to describe Tax Collectors in the time of Luke 19:1-10. In first century Israel the tax collectors were Jewish rip-off merchants who were working for the occupying Roman forces. They were hated by their fellow countrymen. For good reason. The tax collectors didn’t send ‘nice’ letters like I received. They sent guys with big muscles to beat you up. And even if you only owed $5.27, they’d squeeze $527 out of you!
So when the religious nuts have a go at Jesus by saying “He has gone to be the guest of a ‘sinner’ ”… they were right! Zacchaeus was a bad man. He ripped people off.
Things changed when Zac met Jesus.
Repentance means to ‘be sorry and change your mind’ and ‘turn back’. Zac repented. He turned his life around upon following Jesus. He gave half of his possessions away and promised to pay back fourfold to those he’d ripped off.
This is the type of guy that Jesus came to seek and save. He was lost. He may have been wealthy. But he was lost. I wonder if the parable in Luke 18:9-14, where a tax collector cries out to God for mercy, is a preview to the events here in chapter 19?
Jesus doesn’t save the lost so that they can continue being lost. When the lost are found they are to live differently.
If you are a Christian, you are no longer lost. But you need to be different. You aren’t saved because you are different. You are different because you have been saved.
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