Monday, April 07, 2008

You Define the Work

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.” (Luke 19:8)

Some of the best theological education I ever received was imparted to me long before I knew what a seminary was. It wasn’t learned from a book or from a lecture. No, these lessons were learned at a very early age. The pedagogical method was singing and simple rhyme.

Zacchaeus was a wee little man
And a wee little man was he.
He climbed up in a sycamore tree
For the Lord he wanted to see.

And I especially relished the part where we would stop singing and speak with a commanding voice:

Zacchaeus you come down! (Now singing again) for I’m going to your house today.

Professionally speaking, Zacchaeus and his ilk were not highly regarded. Crook, sleaze, shyster, these were the kinds of words murmured by reluctant customers. And everyone, at some point, was a customer of Rome’s tax collecting bureau.

From what we can tell, Zacchaeus had done well as an agent of the state. At least he had done well enough to be widely despised and snubbed. Joining the public along Jericho’s streets to get a look at Jesus, his height and reputation combined to keep him several rows removed from the action. His physical stature made it hard to see over the shoulders of others. His reputation made others only too glad to ignore him.

You know how the story goes. “Lunch with Jesus” had not popped up on the blackberry that morning. However, perched conspicuously in a tree near the parade route, Zacchaeus caught the eye of the popular teacher. Jesus extended the invitation. Really it was more like an announcement. Zacchaeus came out of the tree, apparently not too worried about surprising his wife with guest for lunch.

As the afternoon hours unfolded something happened to Zacchaeus. Simply put: Jesus changed his life. Zacchaeus made some significant business decisions, not the least of which was returning dishonest profits four times over. The man who went back to the office wasn’t he same man who left it to go be a curbside spectator.

The man changed . . . but not his job.

This may surprise us. We can read Luke’s story over and over again and it’s clear that Zacchaeus is a changed man – but he doesn’t change jobs. He meets Jesus and starts doing his job differently.

Before Jesus the job had defined him: crook, sleaze, shyster. After Jesus, he defined the job.

There are really no such things as spiritually friendly professions – and this includes varieties of church work. Jobs don’t make us spiritual, they don’t make us carnal. Your daily routine in the house, the relentless list of errands does not keep you from ongoing fellowship with Jesus today. You define the job. Jesus changes hearts, and that changes everything we do, no matter where, no matter what.

Gracious God, change me by your Spirit today so that everything I do will be done in your company and for your glory. Let me hear your voice telling me who I am; let that identity define my day, in Jesus’ name. Amen.

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