Dinner with Zacchaeus

If you could have dinner with anyone from biblical times–besides Jesus–whom would you choose? I don’t really care for seafood, so Peter, Andrew, and any other fishermen are out. A recent study of the record of Zacchaeus assured me that at the very least, his house would be clean.

Zacchaeus was a tax collector who was a rich man, but vertically challenged. When he wanted to see Jesus passing by, he had to climb a sycamore tree.

Luke 19:5
When Jesus reached the spot, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I must stay at your house today.”

As a mom of three little kids, this caught my attention. We don’t have many material goods to make a mess in our house, but I rarely feel that my house would be ready for a visit from the Lord himself. For one thing, if you ever happened to get lost in our house, you could just follow the trail of discarded Cheerios that have fallen haphazardly from tiny hands. No matter how much I clean and vacuum, you would think there was some sort of Plague of Cheerios that makes them appear on every surface and in every crevice in the house.

Look at Zacchaeus’s response to the Lord’s request:

Luke 19:6
So he came down at once and welcomed him gladly.

If it were me, I would welcome him gladly, but then I would distract him while I raced ahead to my home to throw everything in trash bags and shove them under the bed, in closets, etc. Zacchaeus was ready immediately to receive Jesus at his home. He was joyful, so he couldn’t have been too concerned about his house being in a state of disarray.

I shared this record with my children and asked them if they thought our house was ready for a visit from Jesus. They answered honestly and succinctly with, “No.” This experience gave birth to our introduction of “Zacchaeus Chores” and the concept of working diligently out of love.

Our children were given a list of daily and weekly chores that they had to do with the mindset of the following verses:

Colossians 3:23 and 24
(23) Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men,
(24) since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.

Never before have I seen children working so hard, and having so much fun while doing it. They were much harder on themselves than I have ever been. Grace (5) finished cleaning the sink and then went back to do it over again because “it’s not good enough for Jesus.” When I told Luke (3) that he was done sweeping the floor, he actually started crying because he “wasn’t done yet.” I had asked them to wash the table, and not only did they do it, but they also started washing the walls, a chore that isn’t even on the list!

I’m not telling this story so that you will think we have some group of “superkids,” but so that I can relate the lesson that I learned from my own children. God loves a “cheerful giver,” and that can apply to other areas of our lives besides money. If we do work “reluctantly or under compulsion,” even the heathen can do the same. God wants us to abound in “every good work,” which means that we need to get off the proverbial couch and actually do work. The key to our diligence will be our motivation. Everything we do should be energized by our love for our Lord whom we serve.

1 Corinthians 13:3
If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing.

I have spent a lot of time surrounded by people who just get by in life by doing the bare minimum. I was first made aware of this by a former boss who used to constantly grumble and complain that he never saw his staff “supererogate.” Everyone just smacked their gum and went back to playing computer Solitaire, and I assumed they were not going to look that one up in the dictionary:

Su-per-er-o-gate (verb) To do more than is required, ordered, or expected. [1]

As Christians, we should be raising the bar when it comes to diligence. We represent our Lord, and the rest of the world is forming their opinion of him based on our behavior. When we are at work and asked to do A, we should be doing A, B, and C. If we are getting our home ready for fellowship, we should be cheerfully serving the Lord in order to bless him and the saints we love. In our prayer life, time in the Word, and serving the saints, we should be going above and beyond expectations. As usual, Jesus is the ultimate example:

John 14:2 and 3
(2) In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you.
(3) And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.

Jesus says that there are many rooms, but he is not trying out all of the beds and hammocks; he is working! If Jesus is preparing a place for us, we can rest assured that he is doing more than just stocking the mini bar and leaving a mint on our pillow. We are talking about a man who never gave the bare minimum. He was asked by our heavenly father to be obedient, and he “became obedient to death–even death on a cross!” (Phil. 2:8). What an amazing example for all of us!

When Jesus returns, I hope that he finds us working cheerfully and diligently for him. The next time around, he won’t just be coming for supper or an overnight visit. In the meantime, we can strive to meet and exceed his expectations, looking forward to a warm welcome into his kingdom.





-from our “Zacchaeus Chores” poem



[1] American Heritage College Dictionary, 3rd Edition, Houghton Mifflin Company, Boston, MA, 1993.

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