Luke 19 – Zacchaeus

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The Zacchaeus story coupled with that of Jesus’ visit to the Temple caps off a series of teachings largely relating to money, wealth, and blessings.  Jesus puts things in perspective, talking about not serving two masters, giving away wealth as part of entering into the Kingdom of God, and now we see a concrete example of this in Zacchaeus.

It is entirely possible that Zacchaeus had been following Jesus in His approach to Jericho and now that He was inside the city, wanted to get a look at Him.  I’m sure He didn’t expect Jesus to ask to come over to His house.  However, the transformation that takes place in Zacchaeus’ life in the presence of Jesus and the application of His teaching is profound.

Contrast that with Jesus’ entrance into the Temple after His triumphal entry into Jerusalem.  Whereas salvation had come to the house of a “sinner,” the Temple, the place where the people worshipped and sacrified to God was anything but the picture of salvation.  In fact, the Temple had become a place in which exploitation was the way of life rather than worship.  Think about what Jesus said just a few chapters earlier, “Things that cause people to stumble are bound to come, but woe to anyone through whom they come.”

God’s Temple had become a place where people were exploited for their religious duties and desires.  To sacrifice, you had to have the “perfect” animal that only they sold.  To donate, you had to use the Temple currency which you could get, at a price.  The difference between God’s economy and that of humans is stark: while Zacchaeus is giving away and repenting, the religious leaders continue to cheat, exploit, and hoard money in God’s name… and we wonder why Jesus is angry?



Luke 16 – Shrewdness

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It almost seems as though Jesus is promoting shrewdness and material wealth in these teachings.  That doesn’t seem to jive with much of anything when it comes to what Jesus teaches.  Yet when we take a closer look, the manager that Jesus is speaking about is shrewd (sharp-witted, smart, astute) on several levels.  One of the reasons why these debts had not been paid is likely because the manager had compassion on those who could not pay back the debt.

The actions that he took after he was fired were just as good!  He used the position he had to help those indebted to the master which allowed for a continued relationship with these people and for them to be free from their debt.

So the manager is cheating the master?  Actually, probably not.  If these loans are between Jews, and we are able to think that they are as Jews had very little relations with other cultures, the Law of Moses says that they should charge no interest!  (Deuteronomy 23:19-20)  This manager may be shrewd, but he is also righteous in his actions.

Jesus then encourages His disciples to use their places of influence and what material wealth they had to “gain friends.”  It would seem that Jesus is promoting material gain yet He couples the teaching with a warning: “you cannot serve both God and money.”

God has blessed each one of us; we are encouraged to use those blessings to bless others.  This has always been the call of believers: Blessed to be a blessing.  We should use what God has given us to that end.  In this way we will not become a slave to our possessions, serving them rather than God; instead we serve God through the right use of His blessings to us.



Matthew 19 – First and Last

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Having never been divorced, I find it hard to understand the thought process that goes into divorce.  In fact, as a pastor, walking alongside people who are struggling with things I have not directly experienced is one of the most difficult things for me.

Jesus, as He continues teaching about turning from selfishness, brings in the sensitive subjects of both divorce and money.  Like those asking who would be first in God’s Kingdom, certainly a self-interested question if ever one existed, Jesus addresses other situations in which self-interest certainly can play a role.

I would not presume to cast judgment on those struggling through divorce or picking up the pieces of life after one, and do not want to paint with broad brush strokes over the experiences of individuals in relationships I know nothing about.  I believe that this passage has been used far too many times to judge and hurt, condemn, label, and nullify people’s feelings without consideration of the details of their situation.  I firmly believe that it is not God’s intention to force people to stay in relationships that are unsafe and dangerous.

As He continues to teach, Jesus challenges our notions of selfishness and self-interest.  As those who are “in Christ,” we are called to put off such temptations, to put others before ourselves.  Ultimately we are called to what Paul calls a “ministry of reconciliation” (2 Corinthians 5:18).  This calling is a life of freedom, not being bound to our own self-interest but putting others first.  Our freedom is to love in the way that Christ loved: self-sacrificially.  What does this mean for us?  Perhaps it means not pursuing wealth, actually living out marriage vows, or giving our children the time they need and desire after a long day’s work.  Can you think of others?