21. Zacchaeus, Quite A Character


By Melissa Bopp

‘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.’ Luke 19:1-10

Assumptions and Rumours

Rumours you hear about me are as true as the ones I hear about you.

‘Jesus said to them, ‘Truly I tell you, the tax collectors and the prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God ahead of you. For John came to you to show you the way of righteousness, and you did not believe him, but the tax collectors and the prostitutes did. And even after you saw this, you did not repent and believe him.’ Matthew 21:31-32

People assume Zacchaeus was corrupt and greedy because of his job. Jesus looks at your heart when forming opinions on people, not their profession (background, family, societal standing, etc.).

Why was Zacchaeus a tax collector?

Maybe his job choices were limited due to his size. Get to know a person and the unusual quirks or unforgivable actions may not seem so unreasonable. We all have some unusual quirks!

‘Fools find no pleasure in understanding but delight in airing their own opinions.’ Proverbs 18:2

Consider 1 Samuel 21:12-15 (David) and Judges 11:29-40 (Jephthah). What other Bible stories can you recall in which the character seemed irrational until you understood his/her reasoning?


1. Think of assumptions you made about someone you later regretted. Think of assumptions made about you – based either on fact or fiction. What were the consequences of these assumptions?

2. When and how is it appropriate to address assumptions we have made, or assumptions others have made about us?

3. How can we not let our own or another’s assumptions cloud or inflate our overall view of the individual / program / group / etc?

Wealth And Greed

Greed is not a financial issue. It’s a heart issue.

Was Zacchaeus greedy or simply wealthy? I don’t know. But I do know he felt the need to give of his wealth.

At what point are we considered ‘wealthy’ or ‘rich’?

Other than greed and loving possessions more than people (Luke 12:15), how can wealth be a roadblock to heaven? (Matthew 19:24)


1. Money makes many things in life easier. But which aspects of our lives could be better if we had fewer possessions?

2. Where is the boundary between enjoying the material blessings God has given us and greed?

3. Consider paying back all your wrong doings four times as Zacchaeus did. How can time wasted at work or missed with loved ones be paid back? Untruths spoken? Unkind actions? Missed opportunities?

Treating ‘Sinners’ With Kindness

‘If you think you’re too small to make a difference, you haven’t spent the night with a mosquito.’

Jesus’ greeting, not a lecture, changed Zacchaeus’ heart. Imagine being shunned all your life, to later be the only person’s home Jesus invited himself to (that we know of)! And Jesus did it for all to see.

Jesus didn’t ignore or embarrass ‘sinners’ (Luke 7:38 / John 8 / Matthew 28:19-20 / 2 Corinthians 1:3-4 / Philippians 2:1-3). He showed them understanding, love, and forgiveness. Even if we can’t quote scripture, we can be like Jesus in showing kindness to others.

‘For the Holy Spirit, God’s gift, does not want you to be afraid of people, but to be wise and strong, and to love them and enjoy being with them.’ 2 Timothy 1:7 TLB

See also Ephesians 4:32 / Proverbs 15:4 / Colossians 3:12 / 1 Thessalonians 5:11.


1. Has anyone ever offered a small action or comment, such as Jesus did with Zacchaeus, that had a big influence on you?

2. We have all influenced someone, Romans 14:7. What uplifting qualities of others do you admire?

3. Are there groups of people to whom you have a difficult time showing compassion? Is this ever appropriate? When it is not appropriate, what steps can we take to improve our mindset?

Mind Your Business

Excuse me. Here’s your nose. I found it in my business.

The crowd was upset and grumbled at Jesus’ dinner plans. We need to be so busy doing God’s work that we don’t have the time or energy to be involved in other’s decisions which do not affect us.

Jesus and his disciples often told people ‘What’s it to you? Your focus is to be on doing God’s work.’ See John 21:22 / 1 Thessalonians 4:10-12 / 2 Thessalonians 3:11-13 / 1 Peter 4:15-16.


1. Have you ever had to deal with a situation caused by someone sticking his/her nose where it didn’t belong?

Think of how much of your time, energy, and other resources are wasted on such incidents.

2. There are some situations which we are called to address, Matthew 18:15-16 / Galatians 6:1-2 / 2 Timothy 2:24-26.

How do we determine when someone’s personal decisions are our business and when they are not?


"Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, 'Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.'"

Hebrews 13:5