I just preached my second sermon! (Crazy, right?)
My text was Luke 19:1-10, the story of Zacchaeus. In this passage we have the story of the rich guy that everybody loves to hate. He’s a tax collector who’s making himself rich at his neighbors’ expense. He gouged them on their taxes and had grown very rich doing so.
Well, one day Jesus comes to Jericho, where Zacchaeus lives. Jesus had just healed a blind man, Bartimaeus, and there was a crowd of people surrounding him. Zacchaeus had heard about Jesus and he wanted to go see him. He determined that seeing Jesus was more important than whatever he had been previously occupied with.
So Zacchaeus braves the crowd only to find that he is too short to see anything. I’m 5’1″ so I totally get that. But what Zacchaeus does next is very interesting. He climbed into a tree on the path because he knew Jesus would pass by that way.
When Jesus came to that spot he yelled for Zacchaeus to come down and invited himself to be a guest in Zacchaues’ home. Jesus honors him by eating with him.
Zachaeus had a unique experience. He has a close encounter with the Master himself. People have been radically transformed by just hearing about Jesus. Zacchaeus actually shared space with Jesus. He shared a meal with him. Luke doesn’t give much information about what happened there. I can only imagine what that was like. I can only imagine the things that were said.
One thing Luke does tell us is that Zacchaeus was a changed man after his encounter with Jesus:
“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!”- Luke 19:8
The man that was so consumed with money that he regularly cheated others to make himself wealthy decided to give half of his fortune to the poor. He agreed to make restitution for the money he had stolen. The man that was so obsessed with money and stuff made a radical shift.
Jesus then declares that salvation had come to Zacchaeus’ home. That is a beautiful statement.
If not read carefully, however, it can almost be understood that Zacchaeus’ good works (giving to the poor and making restitution) are what saved him. They most certainly did not. Believing in Jesus is the only thing that saves. This was as true then as it is now. What saved Zacchaeus is his change of belief. He worshipped money and the stuff it can provide. After spending some time with Jesus his beliefs changed. He worshipped the one true God rather than money. This brought salvation to his household.
So, what did Zacchaeus’ good works mean? It meant that Zacchaeus had been freed from his bondage to greed. He was a slave to his desire for money and all that it can buy. After spending time with Jesus he was set free.
Here at Minimalist Believer we aim to have less stuff. Is it because the stuff condemns us? Absolutely not. We need stuff. Often not as much as we think, but we still need it. If we believe in Jesus we have eternal life even if you have a bunch of stuff.
What we do here is celebrate the freedom from obsession with stuff. We celebrate the freedom that comes from living with less stuff and less of a desire for stuff. We celebrate the fact that what we have is enough.
Many of us have been obsessed with stuff. I had a serious addiction to consumerism, and I still have some areas were I can improve. But I am making progress, and that’s my goal: progress, not perfection.
So stuff doesn’t condemn. It doesn’t always cause us to be enslaved. But Jesus comes to being freedom. He comes to destroy the works of the devil. He comes to destroy the chains of bondage — to consumerism or anything else. And that freedom is worth celebrating.