But Zacchaeus stood up and said to the Lord, “Look, Lord! Here and now I give half of my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount.” Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because this man, too, is a son of Abraham.” (Luke 19:8-9)
With a surging economy, charitable giving is on the rise. Projections show that donations from foundations and corporations are on track to grow by 5% or more, well ahead of the GDP. Strangely, the people least likely to contribute are the wealthiest people.
One writer notes that “as people accumulate more wealth they tend to become more insulated and set apart from others, making them potentially less aware of others’ needs and struggles” (quoted in Fox Business, 2013). I think this is correct. Wealth insulates us from reality. The more we pad our lives, the less in touch we are with the suffering of others. We don't cross the paths of the people who need the most help; we avoid the very places where we might find them. We're too distracted by the busyness that comes from all the options money provides. We forget the prisoners (Heb. 13:3) and the poor (Luke 11:41; Gal. 2:10). Some of them live in dangerous places. Some live in countries we will never visit, in conditions of famine and disease. Without a point of connection, we can't be bothered.
In Christ, though, we become united as brothers and sisters. Those who suffer and those who prosper are of the same family, if they share the same Father (Heb. 2:11). Our willingness to open our hands and let go of some of our wealth to help others is a sign that we have received the salvation Jesus spoke of in Luke 19:9. Zaccheus, a tax collector for the Romans and considered a traitor to the Jewish people, finds himself suddenly empathetic to their plight. He offers half of everything he owns to the poor. That's a lot, if you stop to think about it. And on top of that, he goes over-the-top to resolve any injustice he had caused. This isn't a charitable impulse; it's an inner transformation. The rich don't do this. Not even the middle-class do it. Only sons and daughters of the Most High God do it.
Jesus says that Zaccheus is also a son of Abraham. In other words, he's back in the family. Our willingness to give to others shows that we are, too. It reveals a new identity—one that connects us to those who suffer. Jesus met the needs of the poor despite the fact that he was the Creator of the universe, in part, for this reason: He was someone who suffered also (Isa. 53:3). He came here to identify with people like Zaccheus, who even his own people had rejected. As we experience Jesus's life within us, we can't help but be changed and identify with others also. The Spirit develops a heart within us like his heart. His heart is filled with compassion. He views wealth and possessions as an opportunity to show love and not hoard material comfort.
Are you holding onto things too tightly? Are you isolated from those who suffer? This could be the moment God wants to make changes within you. Find your way to where people are in need of food and clothing, and help them. Sponsor a child in a country where there are few opportunities and even fewer resources. When your hands are open, they can release the things you hold onto. They can receive what the Lord wants to give you. Let go of the things that are dragging you down and grab hold of the life he holds out to you.