FREE TO GIVE
Jesus was on His way through Jericho. He stopped underneath a sycamore tree and looked up. A small man named Zaccheus was sitting on a branch peering down at Him. Jesus called to him, “Zaccheus, come down. I’m on my way to your house.” Zaccheus was overjoyed. He led the way to his home and welcomed Jesus and His disciples to his mansion.
Who was Zaccheus? He was a tax-collector. He was hated by his own people because he collected taxes for the Roman government. That was bad enough but he was also a thief. He demanded more money than the taxes they owed and put the rest into his own pocket. He was rich at the expense of his own people.
His riches did not satisfy him. He became restless and unhappy because his conscience constantly bothered him. He climbed a tree to see Jesus because he was too short to see Him over the heads of the crowd. Why did he want to see Jesus? He had probably heard about Him and His message and he longed to see Him for himself, perhaps to hear what He had to say from His own mouth.
Jesus heard his heart cry and chose to spend time with him at his home – away from the hostile crowd. Zaccheus was transformed by his encounter with Jesus. How do we know he was transformed? Jesus said nothing to him about his money or the way he had achieved it but he acknowledged his guilt by promising to repay four times the amount of money he has stolen. He also promised to give half of his possessions to the poor.
Zaccheus understood that his ill-gotten wealth was what stood between him and Jesus. He decided to put right what was wrong in his heart by giving his possessions away. His generosity broke the power of greed over him and set him free to follow Jesus and to be as generous towards people in need as God was to him.
Every human being born into the world is naturally selfish. Jesus called it “walking in darkness.” Selfishness and greed rules everyone who had not received Jesus and been given a new heart and a new nature.
Zaccheus learned that he was not forced to be generous but he was now permitted to be a giver because God has set him free from his prison of selfishness and greed. By giving he began to understand just how generous God is. Generosity is a part of God’s love. Love gives. God gave. The more we give, the more freely we are able to give and the more we get to know God.
This is what God said about King Josiah through the prophet Jeremiah:
“’He did what was right and just, so all went well with him. He defended the cause of the poor and needy, so all went well. Is that not what it means to know me?’ declares the Lord.” Jeremiah 22:16.
BECAUSE OF GOD’S MERCY, He gave us Jesus and He sets us free to give when we respond to His mercy by being generous in every possible way, not only with our money and possessions but also the way we treat people. Loving, forgiving and showing mercy are all ways in which we can be generous towards all people.
And, best of all, when we are generous, we get to know God.
“For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.” John 3:16.