ONE day when I was a small boy, I came home from Sunday School and told my parents the story of Zacchaeus.1 I was rather fascinated with that name. By the end of the day, my parents grew a little weary of hearing me say ``Zacchaeus.'' In any case, it's a story that has relevance for us today. In his succinct account, Luke informs us that Zacchaeus is a tax collector -- and a rich man. Zacchaeus wants to catch a glimpse of this itinerant preacher Jesus. Being a short man, Zacchaeus climbs up into a tree. The Master sees him and cries out, ``Zacch8us, make haste, and come down; for to day I must abide at thy house.'' This sets tongues wagging, along the lines of ``Why, the very idea! Jesus has gone to the house of a sinner!'' Then Luke gives us Zacchaeus's words, which are quite moving in their directness: ``Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor; and if I have taken any thing from any man by false accusation, I restore him fourfold.''
I can't help wondering if the Master urged Zacchaeus to think less about material things, and more about spiritual things. Perhaps Christ Jesus' very presence transformed his host, bringing out good qualities that had been hidden. In any case, Zacchaeus was a new man, and the transformation was a matter of qualities of thought.
Mary Baker Eddy, the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science, writes: ``Jesus beheld in Science the perfect man, who appeared to him where sinning mortal man appears to mortals. In this perfect man the Saviour saw God's own likeness, and this correct view of man healed the sick. Thus Jesus taught that the kingdom of God is intact, universal, and that man is pure and holy.''2
We can and should ask ourselves, ``Is Jesus welcome at my house?'' A better way to phrase the question might be, ``Is my house a place that Jesus would want to visit?'' Here again we're talking about qualities of thought. Fairness, compassion, and generosity are salient characteristics of the new Zacchaeus -- and a good starting point for any of us. We can assume that Zacchaeus had a spiritual hunger that went hand in hand with his capacity for repentance. We might say that the moral of Luke's account is this: The important thing is not what my title or status is; the important thing is how I behave toward my fellowman.
Jesus says to Zacchaeus, ``This day is salvation come to this house, forsomuch as he also is a son of Abraham.'' The Master seems to be making a statement not so much about human status as about Zacchaeus's divine inheritance -- the qualities of God that he reflects. Zacchaeus has gained self-respect and dignity. He will no longer be an outcast, despised for collaborating with the Romans. Like a ship that has unfurled its sails, Zacchaeus is ready for a great voyage.
If perhaps you are feeling that your life or way of thinking is not a place where the Christ, Truth, is welcome, you can begin to change that today. You can start, for example, by studying Jesus' Sermon on the Mount (Matthew, chapters 5-7) and by watching the quality of your conversation. Note that Luke's account ends with Jesus' answer to the wagging tongues: ``The Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost.'' Jesus' love included everyone, and that was because God's love includes everyone, impartially.
1See Luke 19:1-10. 2Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, pp. 476-477.