Two men approached Jesus. They were both wealthy. They were both important figures in society with places of high position. One was named as a young ruler, the other’s name was Zacchaeus.
I know, not a common name today. But stay with me.
When Jesus came to town, the ruler sought him out to ask a very important question. You see, he had everything money could buy. He’d followed all the rules so he believed he was good. But the one thing he couldn’t put his hand on was how to live forever. He believed that was the only thing he lacked. So he asked Jesus how he could inherit eternal life.
Jesus told him there was one thing he lacked. But it wasn’t eternal life. It was the right heart attitude. Jesus’s answer for the ruler was to sell everything he had and give it to the poor. Then to follow him. The Bible says the man went away and was very sad.
Did Jesus say the man’s money was bad? The poor were more important? He wasn’t allowed to have wealth?
He simply pointed out that the man’s primary focus was on his money. The ruler believed he could inherit eternal life from Jesus, but he wasn’t looking for Jesus. He wanted a guarantee, not a relationship.
The second man, Zach (we’ll call him), heard Jesus was coming. The Bible says he ran ahead and climbed a tree just to get a glimpse. He wanted to be in the presence of Jesus and did whatever it took to get there.
Jesus spoke to him, calling him out of the tree and offering to come to Zach’s house for dinner. It says Zach came down at once and welcomed Jesus gladly. Even when all the people around him complained about him. Even though Zach had potentially treated people unfairly because of his job as chief tax collector.
And in the presence of Jesus, Zach’s life changed immediately. He joyfully offered to give half his possessions to the poor and repay four times the amount to anyone he may have cheated. Jesus never asked him to give all he had to the poor.
The ruler wanted eternal life. Zach wanted Jesus.
The requirement wasn’t to get rid of their wealth. Jesus gave them both instructions based on their heart posture. One went away in sadness, holding onto what he had; the other obeyed, opened his life, and was transformed.
Today, in the midst of unprecedented times, I believe Jesus is coming our way. He’s looking to bring salvation and transformation to all. We can be like the man whose focus was on everything he could get or keep for himself, or we can be like the other man who did whatever it took to get into the presence of Jesus.
Which one are you?