So many people today don’t seem to care much about spiritual things. Sure, they may go to church for the token Christmas or Easter service, but more likely you can almost see the little sign around their necks that says, “Do not disturb, I’m not really interested in spiritual things.”
We don’t consider spiritual matters as important as the pressing matters of our day-to-day lives. Our jobs, finances, home responsibilities and daily needs take precedence over our spiritual needs because, well, they just don’t seem immediate. It’s what secularism preaches to us: if it’s not physically felt or observable through the five senses, it’s not really there.
Yet everyone has a spiritual need, and it takes humility to acknowledge it.
That’s why I’m so intrigued by the actions of Zacchaeus in the New Testament book of Luke.
Zacchaeus was a tax collector, a profession nowadays considered little more than boring government work, but in his day it was perhaps the most controversial career you could choose. Tax collectors were known — and despised — for lining their own pockets by extorting the people they collected taxes from, especially the poor. Even more, as a Jew, Zacchaeus was considered a traitor and sellout by his own countrymen for collecting taxes on behalf of the Roman Empire, whom they also despised.
Zacchaeus was a tax collector for the most materialistic and selfish of reasons: self-preservation. He was willing to take advantage of his fellow Jewish brothers and sisters to build a comfortable life for himself.
Yet when he heard Jesus was coming to town, all this came crumbling down. He climbed a tree, likely making a fool of himself because he was short, just to see Christ pass by. When Jesus later came to his house, Zacchaeus experienced such complete repentance for his selfishness and materialism that he promised to repay everyone he cheated four times what he took. Talk about repentance — that would have amounted to a fortune, perhaps even more than all the wealth he had accumulated!
You see, it takes humility to see Jesus. In our pride, we place our trust in material possessions and discount the spiritual. The truth is the motives that drive us to the “rat race” of pursuing money and fame are not so different from the motives that drove Zacchaeus to seek comfort and security in wealth.