The Rich Tax Collector

Yesterday, the scripture referenced a rich man who belonged to his riches. He decided that the Kingdom of God was not worth the sacrifice. Today, on the other hand, we will learn of a rich man who was seeking the Lord above his own wealth.

Now behold, there was a man named Zacchaeus who was a chief tax collector, and he was rich. (Luke 19:2 NKJV)

Note that he was a “chief” tax collector and that he was rich. He was also short and decided to climb a tree to see Jesus go by.

And he sought to see who Jesus was, but could not because of the crowd, for he was of short stature. So he ran ahead and climbed up into a sycamore tree to see Him, for He was going to pass that way. (Luke 19:3, 4 NKJV)

Jesus sees Zacchaeus and tells him that He must stay at his house. They key here is that Zacchaeus sought the Lord. Then, when Jesus requests to be his guest, Zacchaeus receives Him joyfully. This man really knew who the Lord was.

The people are furious. Interestingly enough, they equated tax collectors to sinners (it would seem that is a far cry from today).

So he made haste and came down, and received Him joyfully. But when they saw it, they all complained, saying, “He has gone to be a guest with a man who is a sinner.” (Luke 19:6, 7 NKJV)

Although a tax collector had the ability to be corrupt because of their position of power, Zacchaeus had lived honorably and did not let money control him.

Then Zacchaeus stood and said to the Lord, “Look, Lord, I give half of my goods to the poor; and if I have taken anything from anyone by false accusation, I restore fourfold.” (Luke 19:8 NKJV)

Jesus’ answer to Him should be a welcome invitation for us to live in the same manner.

And Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because he also is a son of Abraham; for the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost.” (Luke 19:9, 10 NKJV)

If we come upon wealth, we must not let the wealth control us. Live honorably, with a giving heart towards the Lord and His people; especially the poor. Seek salvation through Jesus Christ.

Can the Rich Enter the Kingdom of Heaven?

Now a certain ruler asked Him, saying, “Good Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” So Jesus said to him, “Why do you call Me good? No one is good but One, that is, God. (Luke 18:18, 19 NKJV)

Isn’t it interesting that the Son of God answers the ruler in this way? “Why do you call me good?” In other words, “no kudos for you just for calling me good.” This response demonstrates so clearly Jesus’ heart. He is His Father’s Son; however, His relationship means even more than that. He knows that He is to eventually die on the cross. Where does His salvation come from? God. All of Himself belongs to God and no one demonstrated this relationship better than Jesus.

Jesus goes on to tell the ruler the commandments of God. The ruler replies that he has kept God’s commandments. Up to this point, the man has lived a good life. Jesus’ next words are unexpected to the ruler though.

So when Jesus heard these things, He said to him, “You still lack one thing. Sell all that you have and distribute to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.” But when he heard this, he became very sorrowful, for he was very rich. And when Jesus saw that he became very sorrowful, He said, “How hard it is for those who have riches to enter the kingdom of God! For 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.” (Luke 18:22-25 NKJV)

The ruler has kept God’s commandments since he was young. The key here, in my opinion, is that the ruler is very comfortable on Earth. He has all that he needs; or at least all that he thinks he needs. Many of the other people that Jesus encounters in the scriptures are needy – they lack Earthly comfort and they desire God as their only comfort (everlasting life). This ruler was sorrowful when Jesus tells him to sell his belongings. God wants our hearts – our very being must belong to him. What drives us in our living each day? Treasures of this world or the next? Recognition in this world or the next?

Our heart is central to our relationship with God. It can be pulled in so many directions, and once it is set it is hard to change. Comfort can be deadly in this life. God wants us to be safe and taken care of (as shown in yesterday’s devotion). But, if we do not belong to God, but rather to ourselves, we do not know where our source of life, health and riches come from. Riches are not bad. God is the richest among us all. But, having what you need can cause a sickness of the heart – a lack of needing God, our creator.

In my opinion, the ruler had a golden opportunity presented to him – a personal invitation from Jesus Christ to follow Him and have eternal treasure and life in the Kingdom of Heaven. However, he belonged to his wealth – not to God.

No matter what circumstances we are in, commit yourself to God because nothing matters without Him. Can the rich enter the Kingdom of Heaven? Yes. But it becomes so much harder to guard your heart from belonging to your wealth. Jesus answered this question directly in a mighty way.

And those who heard it said, “Who then can be saved?” But He said, “The things which are impossible with men are possible with God.” (Luke 18:26, 27 NKJV)

The Lord is My Shepherd

The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. (Psalms 23:1 NKJV)

The Lord is my shepherd. Shepherd means to herd, guard and protect according to the American Heritage Dictionary. That means the Lord is active in His role with mankind – herding, guarding and protecting. I truly believe that we have an active role to follow as well. Just as sheep try to follow their shepherd, or they will go astray, we choose Jesus as our shepherd.

Look at His nature in the next verses.

He makes me to lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside the still waters. He restores my soul; He leads me in the paths of righteousness For His name’s sake. (Psalms 23:2, 3 NKJV)

God is good. He created us in His image and intended good things for us. But, it is all for His name’s sake. We must keep Him at the center of our existence – we exist because of Him and for Him.

He is the single most important reason that we shall not fear, come what may. I have seen in my own life, He can be our greatest source of strength in our greatest time of need.

Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; For You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; You anoint my head with oil; My cup runs over. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me All the days of my life; And I will dwell in the house of the Lord Forever. (Psalms 23:4-6 NKJV)

The Lord Jesus is our Salvation

But what does it say? “The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart” (that is, the word of faith which we preach): that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. For the Scripture says, “Whoever believes on Him will not be put to shame.” For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek, for the same Lord over all is rich to all who call upon Him. For “whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.” (Romans 10:8-13 NKJV)

We see this quote from scripture so often when people refer to salvation; and rightfully so. The true power of this passage though (as with any scripture) is to put it into context of the Bible and Hebrew traditions. Israel and the Jewish people were commanded in the old testament to sacrifice an animal as an offering to God for their sins. The animal sacrifice had to be pure to cover their sins. However, a beautiful twist to that story exists today. Jesus came and bore our sin, carried it to the cross and was the living sacrifice to carry that sin to the grave. However, Jesus overcame death and offers us eternal life in the Kingdom of Heaven.

As mentioned in the scripture above, it is a personal choice of the heart whether or not to believe this and, once we do, it is our spoken word of confession that proves what’s in our heart. Our sin was made white as snow through our Salvation in Jesus Christ. Once saved, we are believers in Christ and what He has done – this doesn’t mean that we sin in the future knowing that we will be cleaned. On the contrary. Knowing the true ramifications of His offering should make us live for righteousness – God’s eyes are on righteousness always.

This was the single most important decision of my life because it changed me to seek and put God first. That drives my decisions for the better and I have found many blessings in that place. Thank You Lord for dying for our sins. I praise You for conquering death and rising again. You are my God and I am yours.