“Or do you despise the riches of His goodness, forbearance, and longsuffering, not knowing that the goodness of God leads you to repentance?“
John gave a simple message in regards to Jesus. In Matthew 3:2 people were to repent because the kingdom of heaven was at hand. He was saying you need to completely change your thinking. Matthew indicated that they needed to turn about completely in their thinking. In Hebrews chapter 6 we are exhorted as believers to turn from dead works to a living God. In Luke 18 there is an interesting account in the gospel. A certain ruler comes to Jesus asking, “What shall I do to inherit eternal life?” As evangelicals we would answer believe and receive. This was, however, a time that was still under the law. This man responded in such a way that Jesus confronted him with the law that he put himself under. Jesus said to him, “If you want to live by the law, here is what you should do.” Jesus answered him out of the standard of the law because the ruler thought he could do something to inherit eternal life. Wherever we use a standard of what we can do; pride, self-effort, and earned favour all come in to play. Verse 21 indicates that the ruler believed he had done these things. Yet as Jesus answered him there is still one more thing he needs to do. When Jesus told him to sell all that he had and distribute it to the poor, the ruler became very sorrowful because he was very rich. There is an interesting contrast here. The ruler was rich and yet he was poor. In his desire for wealth he had broken the first commandment – you shall have no other gods before me. Jesus knew this and went right to the heart of the matter. It was time to repent and begin to think in a whole new way. In other words, the law kept him bound by a standard that caused him to be obsessed with keeping his money.
In Luke chapter 19 Jesus incurs a man named Zacchaeus. There is a sharp contrast with the other gentleman. Zacchaeus is also rich very much like the ruler, but the scripture says he was a sinner. It is an interesting narrative. Apparently he was so small in stature that he ran ahead and climbed a tree to see Jesus. Jesus, upon coming near him, looked up and saw him. He said I need to go to your house today. The people of the town thought that Jesus being a guest of a sinner was scandalous. They began to murmur, saying that Jesus was a guest of a man who was a sinner.
When we truly understand the grasp of grace, it is not popular with crowds. The grace of our Lord Jesus had opened Zacchaeus’ heart. His kindness towards him moved Zacchaeus so profoundly that he, like the Grinch, had his heart become bigger and bigger. This man, the sinner (not the one who kept the law, but the one who was considered by others to truly be a chief among sinners) was now opening his heart. It was a big heart. Zacchaeuswas so generous that he was willing to restore and give back four-fold all that he had taken falsely. Half of his goods he would give to the poor. It seems as though an open heart brings about an open wallet. This corrupt man is now full of generosity.
How did this happen? How can one man, who seemingly has it all together, walk away sorrowful and another man, whose life is a mess, completely open his heart in generosity? I think it has something to do with whether we live by the law and all the confusion that goes with it. Who is right, who is wrong? Does it still apply? Is there something greater than the law that we hear and see? This story suggests that there possibly is. There is room for us to change our thinking and there is room for us to be generous with the generosity that grace has brought to us. Salvation can truly come to our household.