"Jesus entered Jericho and was passing through. A man was there by the name of Zacchaeus; he was a chief tax collector and was wealthy. He wanted to see who Jesus was, but because he was short he could not see over the crowd. So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore-fig tree to see him, since Jesus was coming that way. When Jesus reached the spot, he looked up and said to him, 'Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I must stay at your house today.' So he came down at once and welcomed him gladly. All the people saw this and began to mutter, 'He has gone to be the guest of a sinner.' 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. For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.'â€ Luke 19:1-10
There is no better teacher than the Son of God turned Son of Man to teach us the secret to truly making the world a better place. In this powerful passage Jesus teaches us just that.
When a tax collector named Zacchaeus demonstrated enough faith to climb a tree to catch a glimpse of Christ, Jesus saw past all of the injustices he had committed and declares him to be a true son of Abraham. That must have irked the Jews who considered tax collectors, not only less than Jewish, but less than human and anything but humane.
Tax collectors were notorious thieves. They overtaxed in overdrive so they could live large off of the excess. These money-hungry Jews worked for the ruthless Roman Empire and were considered traitors to their own people. They were no "sons of Abraham" but "sons of the devil" in the Jewish mind.
Tax collectors created poverty and social injustice everywhere they went. They terrorized their fellow Jews with the threat of Roman payback if they refused to pay their bloated tax bill.
In one fell swoop Jesus attacked this injustice in a direct and powerful way. He reached out to Zacchaeus and, as a result, this tax collector believed in Jesus and was saved.
What was Zacchaeus' immediate response upon receiving the free gift of eternal life?"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.â€
In this singular verse lies the hidden secret to social justice. If we truly want to make the world a better place we must fill it with followers of Jesus! Truly converted people who are filled with the power and presence of Jesus cannot say "be warmed" to a cold person without backing it up with a blanket. They cannot say "be filled" to a hungry person without backing it up with a sandwich. They cannot ignore social injustice without seeking to fix it four times over.
Followers of Jesus do what Jesus did. They heal. They help. They serve. In short they make the world a better place to live in.
So what must we do if we want to truly create social justice of the New Testament variety? We must share the good news of Jesus everywhere we go and then unleash the newly transformed to do what Jesus did. We must develop and deploy fully surrendered followers of Jesus into every corner of the planet until everyone, everywhere not only hears the good news that Jesus died for them but feels the good news poured out on them by the love of the saints.
Never underestimate the power of the gospel message to, not only save lost souls, but to create followers of Jesus who will change the world for and with good.
Viva LA Cause!