Deliver Us From Greed....
by PastorErick | 5/16/17, 9:13 AM
 He entered Jericho and was passing through.  And behold, there was a man named Zacchaeus. He was a chief tax collector and was rich.  And he was seeking to see who Jesus was, but on account of the crowd he could not, because he was small in stature.  So he ran on ahead and climbed up into a sycamore tree to see him, for he was about to pass that way.  And when Jesus came to the place, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, hurry and come down, for I must stay at your house today.”  So he hurried and came down and received him joyfully.  And when they saw it, they all grumbled, “He has gone in to be the guest of a man who is a sinner.”  And Zacchaeus stood and said to the Lord, “Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor. And if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I restore it fourfold.”  And Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, since he also is a son of Abraham.  For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.”
- (Luke 19:1-10)
In our day we hear stories of greed all the time: Bernie Madoff, Enron, the C.E.O. of Tyco, and the list goes on and on. The public hears of these uber-rich people stealing more and more money from poorer people then they, and the revulsion is everywhere. And yet, this is where I think, in general we make a mistake. We often assume that it’s the rich people that are greedy, period. But the reality is, the Bible teaches that in one way or another we all succumb to greed; from the poorest of the poor, to the richest of the rich. And the reason this is, is because greed is something that starts in the heart, in the mind. One can have nothing, and be filled with greed, for to be greedy is only another word for what the Bible calls coveting: believing that if you just have this, or that, then your life will have significance and meaning. Lusting not after someone else’s spouse, but after someone else’s money, stuff, possessions, etc. The reason we all tend towards greed is because as Jesus said, we tend to give it god like status. Paul flat out wrote in Colossians 3:5, “Greed is idolatry.” We serve it, treasure it, love it, find security in it and place our faith in it.
And the result of greed? Isolation, despair, discontentment, and finally death, even eternal death. So how can we be delivered from greed? The answer of course to every spiritual problem is always Jesus. And so How does Jesus deliver us from greed. Go with me back to our text:
Jesus seeks you where you are
In our story we meet a man named Zacchaeus, and Zacchaeus was one greedy man. Where is Zacchaeus at? Well for starters he’s in Jericho. At that time, Jericho was quite a wealthy and important city. Centered in the Jordan Valley between the Jordan River and Jerusalem, it became a major place of trade. Not only that, but Jericho also had a tropical climate, plush palm trees, balsam trees and was famed all around the Roman Empire for its rose gardens. People wanted to live there and so population was high, trading was constant and the economy boomed. Therefore it was a perfect place for a tax collector to hang out. Enter Zacchaeus: Zacchaeus is not just a tax collector (which we’ve spent a little time going over before) but he is the “Chief Tax Collector”. This means of all the taxes that were collected by the various tax collectors in the area, he got a cut of all of it. And so he is extraordinarily wealthy. We know because of what Jesus calls him later on in our text that he is a Jew, but he is a trader to his people. He had sold out his life for money and comfort. He was most assuredly hated by just about everyone around him that day. And oh yeah, he was short….
Now, what we need to do is get to the reason that a chief tax collector would be willing to do something no dignified man would do at that time: Climb a tree!!! And here’s what we can tell: the money, the protection from Rome, the comfort, it wasn’t cutting it!
That is where this man is at. He knows he’s done wrong, he knows there’s got to be something else, something more significant, but who will help him. Who will even listen to him? He is hated by everyone, no one liked the tax collector. But then he hears about this man named Jesus who is teaching and healing people. Some are saying He’s the Messiah, but then there also saying that he is a friend of tax collectors and sinners?! How do these two things compute? I thought the Messiah was supposed to get rid of evildoers, not have dinner with them, not make wine for them, or bread for them, not forgiven them and be gracious to them. But nonetheless, this is what Zacchaeus has heard about this man. And so, he can’t help to want to see this man; maybe what they say is true.
And then sure enough, Jesus sought him right where he was at. Up in that tree, Jesus came to him.
And Jesus seeks you out today, no matter where you’re at, what you’ve don, who you are, Jesus passes by today, but he does not pass by unintentionally, or accidentally. No He comes here, He is here seeking you. But he doesn’t just seek you where you are, he saves you where you are:
Jesus saves you where you are
And when Jesus came to the place, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, hurry and come down, for I must stay at your house today.” You see Jesus’ desire with the Zacchaeus’ of the world is not to push them away or condemn them to hell (not yet), but rather his desire is to lodge with them, to fellowship with them, to relate with them. Why? Because he has no problem with what Zacchaeus did in the past? No. Because he endorses stealing and extortion? No. The reason he desires to relate to the Bernie Madoff’s of the world and the Charlie Manson’s of the world and everyone in between is the same reason that he desires to relate to you: So that he can save you! It is only where Jesus resides, that Jesus saves. And so he says to Zacchaeus, “Hurry and come down, for I must stay at your house today.” It wasn’t an accident, it wasn’t a casual meeting, but as a matter of fact, this is why Jesus came to Jericho, this is why He came to Galilee and Jerusalem, and the world: To save lost sinners. Paul stated it this way: “Christ came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the chief!”
“So he hurried and came down and received him joyfully!”
That is the sign of a saved man. Before he does anything good or bad, before any of his works come into play, he “receives Jesus joyfully!”
Of course, some do not respond the same way to such grace: “
And when they saw it, they all grumbled, “He has gone in to be the guest of a man who is a sinner.”
There will always be those who when they see Jesus save the greedy, go and relate with the dregs, with their enemies that will react this way. You’ll find that if you start reaching out to the “really sinful” that there will always be some around that react the same way. But Jesus comes to saves you where you are!
Jesus changes who you are
In response to the grace of God, what had been his god before, he gladly gives away to help others. And Zacchaeus stood and said to the Lord, “Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor. And if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I restore it fourfold.” And Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, since he also is a son of Abraham.
Now what is Jesus saying? Is He saying that because Zacchaeus did these works he earned his place as a son of Abraham? No not at all; rather Jesus is pronouncing that Zacchaeus’ response of wanting to give away what he has, and wanting to be generous to the poor, is an outpouring of His faith in the gracious Son of God! As Jesus said, “A good tree bears good fruit!” For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.”
Our response is indeed the same: Luther put it this way in his writing The Freedom of the Christian: “Works do not make a person a believer and they do not make a person righteous; however, faith does make a person a believer and righteous, and faith does good works as well.”
So, as we go about our day tempted towards greed and coveting, let us remember that our Lord seeks us where we’re at, saves us where we’re at and changes us where we’re at, and from that remembrance, walk in contentment with what He’s given.
Grace and Peace,
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