A Wee Little Dose of Justice

He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God (Micah 6:8).

And Zacchaeus stood and said to the Lord, “Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor. And if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I restore it fourfold” (Luke 19:8).

The story of Zacchaeus the tax collector is the story of Jesus doing what only He can do.

Some of the most degraded and deplorable members of 1st-century Jewish society were tax collectors. You may know someone who works for the IRS, but believe me, it was not the same thing.

Tax collectors in Jesus’ day were seen as sellouts and traitors. Typically, Jewish tax collectors worked for the Romans to collect money from everyday, hardworking Jewish people and hand it over to the occupiers. They were paid well, but most had the reputation of also “skimming off the top” at the expense of the everyday citizenry. It was much easier to cook the books back in the first century than it is today (for example, see Luke 16:1-13).

But once again, Jesus encountered an outcast member of society and did the unthinkable: embraced him. And the response Jesus received from Zacchaeus was nothing short of astounding.

What must Jesus have been like to elicit such a reaction? To think that one afternoon with the Master could bring about such change, such restoration, such deliverance that a man could go from being willfully opposed to his community, to suddenly willing to pay any cost to make things right with that community, is quite astonishing. 

We have no way of knowing what Zacchaeus was like before he met Jesus. No way of knowing if he was one of those swindling, “skim off the top” tax collectors or an honest one. But what we do know is that, after encountering Jesus, his response was to become radically just.

Jesus is referred to in Scripture as “the Just One,” and following Him means walking the same paths. I’m not talking about protesting or flaunting a certain bumper sticker, but about walking uprightly in the way you treat others.

To act justly means to treat all human beings as if they are made in the image of God, as infinitely sacred. To treat every human soul with the same care and fairness as you would your closest friend or even yourself. To exalt human beings above lust for money, power, or material goods.

If that sounds difficult to do in and of yourself, that’s because it is. It’s why God has given us a blueprint for how we become radically just people. It begins and ends with encountering Jesus. If Jesus could transform Zacchaeus so radically in one afternoon, what He can do with a person who walks with Him daily?

Walking justly means valuing people above all else. Take time today and pray about some of the ways your daily encounters with people – both those you live with and total strangers – could more appropriately reflect God’s character and justice. 

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