You may remember the story of Zacchaeus. He was the tax collector who was too short to see over the crowds, so as Jesus approached, he climbed a tree to get a better look. Jesus called to him and said that He wanted to have dinner at the tax collector's house, and by the time the whole thing is done, Zacchaeus has had such a revolution of heart that of his own free will, with no prompting from Jesus, he vows to give back everything he's ever taken by trickery and give a certain percentage of his wealth away and to never be shady again.
We read it and are moved by his amazing change of heart, but the truth is that this whole scene leaves us with a very disturbing question:
Is Zacchaeus so unlike us that we just naturally assume the purity of his gift...or are we so unlike Zacchaeus that we do not see the depravity of ours?
Because let's be honest here: we are a people, even as a people of faith, who try to get by with the bare minimum. We make sacrifices, but only what is comfortable for us. We offer to God, but only the least that we think that we have to in order to make our point (or earn His favor or however we conceptualize that). We are a people who are extremely calculating, and even if we had a true Jesus encounter, there's part of us that would be figuring up what we could vow to get rid of and give back and still have the luxury that we've become accustomed to. How much can we give away without actually feeling like we're giving it away?
But nobody thinks that about Zacchaeus. Nobody thinks he's conniving at all. Nobody thinks he's doing the math in his head and figuring out how to sound generous while still being very comfortable in a worldly sense.
And there's not really any reason why we should think this about Him, because Jesus Himself doesn't call the tax collector out on it. Jesus applauds his change of heart and seems genuinely pleased with what Zaccheus is offering, so we don't think a second thing of it.
Look in the mirror, though...and don't we have to?
Someone's not right here. Something's not right. If Zacchaeus's gift is genuine and pure and pleasing to God, if we really don't have to ask whether something is a little...iffy...about it, then it leave us with only one recourse:
We must ask what it is that is iffy about our own offering.
We have to ask why we think it's okay for us to sit around and do the math. We have to ask why our "change of heart" hasn't been so thorough and so pure that we can make a genuine, pure, pleasing gift like Zacchaeus. We want God to be satisfied with what we offer, but we're not really looking for pleased. We want Him to notice, to affirm us, whatever, but we don't care if the gift itself is genuinely from a heart that's been changed by Him.
Truth be told, if our heart were truly changed by our encounter with Jesus, we wouldn't be calculating our gift at all.
Which means the fact that we spend so much of our time calculating means that our hearts...have not been radically, thoroughly, genuinely changed by Jesus.
That ought to trouble us.
Yet for some reason, it doesn't. And that's a problem.
So read through this story and see what the tax collector offers in response to a heart that's been changed by God and then ask yourself:
Is Zacchaeus so unlike me that he's just able to give this amazing gift...or am I so unlike Zacchaeus that I can't even fathom having my heart so radically changed enough to consider it? What would it take for God to get a genuine, pure, and pleasing sacrifice from me?