My mother has always been a model of strength for me. And I don’t mean only physical strength which by itself would be an amazing feat. She took care of nine children, most of the time without the modern “luxuries” of refrigerators, wash machines, dishwashers, etc. One of my early memories of my mom is seeing her outside in the backyard boiling our clothes in a big “cauldron,” while turning them with a wooden stick. But all that strength was puny compared to her strength of character.

Being around my mom doomed me, for the good. Seeing her share her meager resources with total strangers gave me a bias for the poor. Observing how she always told the truth even when it was not convenient made me a prisoner of truth-telling. And her honesty while handling finances forever freed me from the thought that I could possibly get ahead by taking some unlawful detour. My mother pretty much ensured that I would be poor for the rest of my life. Her detachment from the love of money made me a giver not a keeper. My mother doomed me and I am so thankful for that!

Our study this weekend will feature the story of a man whose life was also “doomed” when he came face-to-face with Jesus. Zacchaeus was a very short man but he grew in stature the moment he saw Jesus. Not physical but moral stature. Jesus took a short walk to Zacchaeus’ home where he was going to have dinner and at the end of that walk the unscrupulous, odious tax collector was talking about the poor in a way he had never talked about them ever before.

Isn’t it fascinating to think that in such a short period of time the subject that surfaced right away was the plight of the poor? Do you think Jesus felt passionate about that issue? Of course, personal integrity surfaced as well. Zacchaeus decided to pay back four times the people he had defrauded. In my mind I imagine Zacchaeus asking Jesus, after Jesus talked to him about repentance and the hope of eternal life. “Lord, what should I should do?”

Jesus could have answered that question in more vague terms. “Walk righteously.” “Make your life count from now on.” Whatever. But instead, Jesus was practical and precise. He touched upon the only area of Zacchaeus’ life where he didn’t feel “short.” Zacchaeus was not short on cash. Luke calls him “very rich,” but the more appropriate expression should be “filthy rich.” So I imagine Jesus may have told him something like, “You know, ‘Z’, part of the money you have in the bank is not even legitimately yours, since you got it at the expense of the common man on the street.”

That’s all Jesus needed to say. Zacchaeus got the message and he didn’t even need to call his wife and children to tell them of the major downsizing that was about to happen in their lives. He got up in the middle of dinner and made an announcement that would be the nightmare of any financial planner anywhere: “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).

Like I said, Jesus “doomed” Zacchaeus somewhat like my mom “doomed” me. When Jesus came to dinner, Zacchaeus understood clearly for the first time the necessity of making restitution. And for the first time in his life he got connected with Kingdom priorities. Zacchaeus would never be the same again. In fact, some traditions place him as the Bishop of Caesarea later on. In other words, a dignified, but otherwise poor man.

So, I am just wondering, if you are a follower of Christ, in what ways has He “doomed” you?

What arch principles of righteous living have invaded your soul since you gave your life to Jesus?

Have you ever done anything for the sake of Christ that your friends thought was “outrageous” or even “crazy”?

Do you need to make restitution in words or deeds?

How do you feel about people like Zacchaeus, who appear to be outside of God’s grasp?

And finally, what have you done to comfort the poor?

I hope you will take these questions to heart and not rest until you feel like you have been “doomed” enough.

Pastor Ivanildo C. Trindade

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