In our ongoing series about Jesus’ model for economic engagement during His earthly ministry, we look next at the encounter with Zacchaeus, the chief tax collector. Here’s Luke’s description:
And there was a man called by the name of Zaccheus; and he was a chief tax collector, and he was rich…
…when Jesus came to the place, He looked up and said to him, “Zaccheus, hurry and come down, for today I must stay at your house.” And he hurried and came down, and received Him gladly. And when they saw it, they all began to grumble, saying, “He has gone to be the guest of a man who is a sinner.” And Zaccheus stopped and said to the Lord, “Behold, Lord, half of my possessions I will give to the poor, and if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I will give back four times as much.” And Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because he, too, is a son of Abraham. “For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost.”
Luke 19:2, 5-10 NAS
We see the (by now) very familiar pattern: Jesus hangs out with recognized sinners. These sinner really are sinners. Jesus accepts material support, gifts and/or patronage. Critics grumble. The sinner is restored.
Note, by the way, that it is Jesus alone who is described as seeking this invitation. ‘I must stay at your house’ is not ‘we must stay at your house’. Zaccheus ‘received Him’, not ‘received them’. In other words, the text suggests that Jesus’ disciples were not compelled to go so far out of their comfort zone as to dine with this arch-sinner. The grumblers accused Jesus and His disciples ‘Why do you (pl.) eat and drink with sinners…’. (Lk. 5:30) Apparently, eating with ordinary tax collectors when they are part of a broad banquet is something the disciples can handle, but eating at the home of a chief of the system is too much.
Let’s get a bit deeper on the matter of patronage. The word used to describe Jesus being ‘received’ is explained here:
The verb for welcome (v. 2) is prosdechomai, which may denote more than simply entertaining guests. Elsewhere it is used in context of financial provision and social honour (cf. Rom. 16:2 and Phil. 2:29; so Marshall 1978: 599).
Blomberg, Craig L.. Contagious Holiness (New Studies in Biblical Theology) (p. 150). InterVarsity Press. Kindle Edition.
Often those received would get all their meals, a roof over their heads, perhaps some financial provision while there, and traveling money afterwards. It’s more than a quick lunch together.
This explains the crowd’s objection to some degree. They are likely following the pharisaical teachings that benefiting from the wealth of a publican makes one also guilty.
The crowd, however, interprets the scene in diametrically opposite fashion (v. 7), for, from their perspective, ‘to stay in such a person’s home was tantamount to sharing in his sin’ (Marshall 1978: 697).
Blomberg, Craig L.. Contagious Holiness (New Studies in Biblical Theology) (p. 153). InterVarsity Press. Kindle Edition.
Why does the sin transfer from the ill-getter of the gain to the secondary recipient? Because the wealth itself is seen as tainted, not just the deed by which it is gotten.
Whereas the crowds see Jesus accepting the hospitality of a man whose wealth is ill-gotten as becoming a partner with him in his crimes (Derrett 1970: 281–282), Jesus believes that godly character and righteous living can be modelled and have a positive impact by rubbing off on others as they commit to change their ways.
Blomberg, Craig L.. Contagious Holiness (New Studies in Biblical Theology) (p. 157). InterVarsity Press. Kindle Edition.
Once again we see that with the coming of God in the flesh, it is righteousness which is ‘catching’, not sin. Jesus is infectious to those whom He touches, not the other way around.
Originally published on Townhall Finance.
Jerry Bowyer is a Forbes contributor, contributing editor of AffluentInvestor.com, and Senior Fellow in Business Economics at The Center for Cultural Leadership.
Jerry has compiled an impressive record as a leading thinker in finance and economics. He worked as an auditor and a tax consultant with Arthur Anderson, as Vice President of the Beechwood Company which is the family office associated with Federated Investors, and has consulted in various privatization efforts for Allegheny County, Pennsylvania. He founded the influential economic think tank, the Allegheny Institute, and has lectured extensively at universities, businesses and civic groups.
Jerry has been a member of three investment committees, among which is Benchmark Financial, Pittsburgh’s largest financial services firm. Jerry had been a regular commentator on Fox Business News and Fox News. He was formerly a CNBC Contributor, has guest-hosted “The Kudlow Report”, and has written for CNBC.com, National Review Online, and The Wall Street Journal, as well as many other publications. He is the author of The Bush Boom and more recently The Free Market Capitalist’s Survival Guide, published by HarperCollins. Jerry is the President of Bowyer Research.
Jerry consulted extensively with the Bush White House on matters pertaining to the recent economic crisis. He has been quoted in the New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Forbes Magazine, The International Herald Tribune and various local newspapers. He has been a contributing editor of National Review Online, The New York Sun and Townhall Magazine. Jerry has hosted daily radio and TV programs and was one of the founding members of WQED’s On-Q Friday Roundtable. He has guest-hosted the Bill Bennett radio program as well as radio programs in Chicago, Dallas and Los Angeles.
Jerry is the former host of WorldView, a nationally syndicated Sunday-morning political talk show created on the model of Meet The Press. On WorldView, Jerry interviewed distinguished guests including the Vice President, Treasury Secretary, HUD Secretary, former Secretary of Sate Condoleezza Rice, former Presidential Advisor Carl Rove, former Attorney General Edwin Meese and publisher Steve Forbes.
Jerry has taught social ethics at Ottawa Theological Hall, public policy at Saint Vincent’s College, and guest lectured at Carnegie Mellon’s graduate Heinz School of Public Policy. In 1997 Jerry gave the commencement address at his alma mater, Robert Morris University. He was the youngest speaker in the history of the school, and the school received more requests for transcripts of Jerry’s speech than at any other time in its 120-year history.
Jerry lives in Pennsylvania with his wife, Susan, and the youngest three of their seven children.