Gratitude & Generosity
October 20, 2015
“[Zaccheus] ran on ahead and climbed up into a sycamore tree to see him, for he was to pass that way. And when Jesus came to the place, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchae’us, make haste and come down; for I must stay at your house today.” So he made haste and came down, and received him joyfully.” -Luke 19:4-6, RSV
From his perch in a sycamore tree, Zacchaeus watched with interest as the crowd surged forward, the prophet surrounded by the excited throng. He could see Jesus and even hear some of his words. Suddenly, Jesus stopped. He looked up at the diminutive figure sitting on the sturdy limb. He called out to Zacchaeus. “Zacchaeus, make haste and come down; for I must stay at your house today.”
Imagine what that meant to Zacchaeus. He was an outcast, a pariah, one no respectable Jew would have anything to do with. A person with no friends, indescribably lonely. And here he was being recognized and, yes, honored by a great prophet.
What made Jesus do it? Why would he go out of his way to recognize someone who made his living from exploiting his neighbors? What did Jesus see in Zacchaeus that the other Jews didn’t? As Jesus put it, he “came to seek and to save the lost.” Zacchaeus was one of God’s beloved children. Regardless of his collaboration, regardless of his dishonesty, God loves him. He is one of the ones for whom Jesus was willing to die!
Amazing grace! That saved a wretch like Zacchaeus—or me!
With great joy Zacchaeus scrambled down and made the way to his home to welcome his guest. Zacchaeus recognized the blessing that had come to him. A prophet of his people had recognized him as a person of worth, not because of what he had, but just because of who he was. And Zacchaeus was filled with gratitude for this blessing.
But that wasn’t all that Zacchaeus did. The story says that Zacchaeus promised to repay four times over to anyone he had cheated. Moreover, he promised to give half—half—of everything he owned to help the poor. His response to the gratitude he felt was to be a generous giver. Not to give a tithe as required by the rules of his religion, but to give fully half of all he had. How many of us are that generous?
Jesus recognized this new generous spirit in Zacchaeus and knew that it came from the gratitude he felt for the blessing he had received. Jesus commended him, saying, “Salvation has come to this house.”
We all have the blessings that we have by the grace of God. We recognize our unearned blessings and are thankful. Thankfulness, that is, happy recognition of the good things we have received, becomes gratitude when we recognize the source of our blessings. There is a close connection between gratitude and generosity; generosity begins with gratitude. When we recognize how we have been blessed we want to share blessings with others, but our natural tendency is to hold on to what we have out of fear. Generosity is a statement of faith that God is trustworthy. Let us have enough awareness to be grateful and enough faith to be generous.
Prayer: God, grant that we can have a sense of gratitude, as Zaccheus did, for the blessings you have given us and that our gratitude will kindle within us a spirit of generosity toward others. In Jesus name, amen.
Wyoming Cluster Coach