Q: In the story of Zacchaeus, when he gave back restitution to those he had cheated, Zacchaeus gave back four times what he stolen. Why did Zacchaeus give back so much more?
A: The story is found in Luke 19:1-10. “Jesus entered Jericho and made his way through the town. There was a man there named Zacchaeus. He was the chief tax collector in the region, and he had become very rich. He tried to get a look at Jesus, but he was too short to see over the crowd. So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore-fig tree beside the road, for Jesus was going to pass that way. When Jesus came by, he looked up at Zacchaeus and called him by name. ‘Zacchaeus!’ He said. ‘Quick, come down! I must be a guest in your home today.’ Zacchaeus quickly climbed down and took Jesus to his house in great excitement and joy. But the people were displeased. ‘He has gone to be the guest of a notorious sinner,’ they grumbled. Meanwhile, Zacchaeus stood before the Lord and said, ‘I will give half my wealth to the poor, Lord, and if I have cheated people on their taxes, I will give them back four times as much!’ Jesus responded, ‘Salvation has come to this home today, for this man has shown himself to be a true son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek and save those who are lost.’” (NLT)
From this Scripture we can seee that Zacchaeus had some major obstacles to overcome before he could get right with God. First off was his occupation. He was a tax collector for the hated Romans. Tax collectors had a well deserved reputation for being dishonest and becoming wealthy at others’ expense, and Zacchaeus was no exception. He was despised and hated by his own people because of his occupation. And today isn’t a lot different. Not that people hate us for the jobs we have, but many times our occupation keeps us from the things of God; many jobs today often require Sunday work hours.
Zacchaeus’ next challenge was that he was a very short man and the crowd was in the way for him to see Jesus. Today the “worldly crowd” often keeps us from coming to Jesus as well.....the pull of the world is strong; so many things going on to draw our attention away from the things of God. Often good things in and of themselves but if they keep us from experiencing God’s Best they can become an idol.
Zacchaeus next problem and likely his biggest was that he had become very wealthy, and as Jesus says, “And again I say to you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.” Matthew 19:24. Why is wealth a deterent to finding God? It’s because the wealthy often put their faith and trust in their wealth and when a person has everything that money can buy, they may have little or no need for God because they lack for nothing.
Zacchaeus overcame the crowd by running ahead of it and then climbing above it; as we must do as believers to overcome the worldly crowd. He climbed a tree to get to Jesus as we must come to Jesus despite what others do. Then Zacchaeus confessed his sin and wrong-doing and repented by trying to right his wrongs. Zacchaeus knew that the people would be skeptcal of his conversion.....he knew the people would have a hard time believing his change was genuine. Zacchaeus knew that his heart was changed, but how could he show this evidence to his neighbors and fellow countrymen?
Zacchaeus “put his money where his mouth was.” He gave half of his wealth to the poor and he not only gave back what he stole from people, he decided to give back four times the amount that he had taken....that was his way of showing others that he really was sorry and that he meant business with God. His commitment to Christ wasn’t half-hearted.