Academic journal article Anglican Theological Review

Zacchaean Effects and Ethics of the Spirit

Academic journal article Anglican Theological Review

Zacchaean Effects and Ethics of the Spirit

Article excerpt

Effects and ethics of the Holy Spirit today can be described in terms of the themes of abundance, hope and community in the story of Zacchaeus. The Gospel of Luke (19:1-11) records that Zacchaeus was a chief tax collector, and rich. He was an outcast, and isolated from those around him by the shameful behavior that built up his fortune while keeping others weak and poor and subjugated to the ruling authority. In the world of his day, Zacchaeus would have been scorned and resented for the abuses of power that made him wealthy. For all his riches, Zacchaeus may have lived with a perspective of scarcity, haunted by the fear that there would never be enough for him. In a world of limitation and not enough, it seemed that he had to look out for himself-even at the expense of the poor and helpless.


Things began to change for Zacchaeus when Jesus entered Jericho. Seeing Jesus meant a change of perspective for him. In specific, tangible terms, it was physically necessary for Zacchaeus to change his place of perspective to see Jesus. He was short in stature, so he had to climb a tree to see Jesus as he arrived. More importantly, Jesus' visit to his home made it possible for him to move from a perspective of scarcity to one of abundance. It was an expression of incredible generosity for Jesus to visit the shunned tax collector, and it caused no little scandal in the community.1

People grumbled that Jesus had "gone to be the guest of one who is a sinner." But through this visit Zacchaeus realized the nearness and abundance of God's forgiveness, and he responded with enormous generosity of his own. Jesus' visit set Zacchaeus free from his past and healed him. Zacchaeus's neighbors didn't want his sinful past to be overlooked, but he came away from this moment with a new life. He would give half of his possessions to the poor, and pay back four times anyone he had defrauded.

Perspectives of scarcity and abundance can dominate our lives as well. From the perspective of scarcity, there's never enough. Not enough time, not enough money, not enough energy, not enough life. Scarcity leads to grasping, overprotection, and hoarding. It is a perspective of fear and great insecurity. There may be money in the bank, and investments in the portfolio-but the money may be devalued by inflation, and the stock market may crash. Instead of bringing assurance, having more things can mean even greater anxiety. Maybe someone is taking something, maybe an investment is going bad, maybe a partner is seeking an unfair share. As the Scripture warns, moth and rust do corrupt, and thieves do break in and steal.2 It could all be gone tomorrow! So the tendency is to seek even more. Perhaps it was that way for Zacchaeus, who seems to have been defrauding people even after he became rich.

Of course, the ultimate perspective of scarcity concerns life itself. We are finite and limited. Many people want more life than they can have, or they want to live a life that is not possible. When they can't hold on to a time of life, or a way of life, or life itself, they try holding on to other things. The grip can tighten as time seems to be passing even faster, with more and more of life slipping away. If only possessions could wall out the changes and the losses! Not too long ago, the maker of a popular luxury automobile promised in an advertisement that "this car will save your soul." Sadly, the luxury car will not save the soul or change the basic terms of mortal existence. But the temptation still beckons-save your own soul, save your own life, get what you need, keep it for yourself. Zacchaeus probably believed that he really needed every coin that he could get his hands on, and he was looking for more. Until Jesus came to him.

Zacchaeus found new life beyond himself in Jesus. In this renewal and conversion, he didn't have to save himself any more. He didn't need to stockpile his resources, or depend on them for hope. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed


An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.