I’m sure most of you have heard Elon Musk closed the deal with Twitter this Thursday. You might have also seen the video of him carrying a sink into Twitter’s headquarter in San Francisco, tweeting, “Let that sink in.” People like him because he is hilarious and down-to-earth.
He bought Twitter for 44 billion, but many experts believe he had overpaid—at least about 20 billion. His purpose is to allow Twitter to be the global town square for free speech. As someone who came from a country that controls free speech, I appreciate his intention. It’s seriously needed in a divisive time like this.
Some people think he is naïve because it’s an impossible dream. But we must remember this is not the first impossible mission Elon Musk has attempted—for example, Tesler, SpaceX, Starlink, and the Boring Company.
Most importantly, his Starlink satellite internet service has saved Ukraine from getting cut off from communication. Can you imagine how Ukraine could survive and resist for so long without the Internet? I know some ideologues hate him, but what’s new—the Pharisees have been around since Jesus’ time.
The main problems of the Pharisees are a lack of humility, humor, and hospitality. They are so uptight and critical of everything and eventually crucified Jesus. A lack of humor can make a person heinous. Do you know the words “human, humility, and humor” came from the same Latin root word, “humus,” which means “earth?” A person without humility and humor is not a human—not down-to-earth.
After buying Twitter, Elon Musk changed his Twitter profile to “Chief Twit.” We all know a twit is a silly or foolish person. That means he is making fun of himself. You need humility to make fun of yourself. Maybe from now on, the word “twit” will have a new meaning. Humility is also a source of creativity.
We know children are creative because they are humble. Maybe that’s why Jesus wants us to become like children to maintain our humility, humor, and hospitality. Never grow up and become like the humorless Pharisees.
Today, we will look at another billionaire in the Bible who was humble, humorous, and hospitable. His name was Zacchaeus. What’s amazing is that, within a glance, Jesus connected with him, and they became buddies despite the grumbling and sneering of the ideologues.
I am sure Jesus was drawn to him because they share similar personality traits reflecting God’s image. As we know, Jesus personifies humility, humor, and hospitality. Jesus said to him, “Today, salvation has come to this house.” He reveals that humility, humor, and hospitality signify salvation.
So, today, we will learn from this lighthearted story about how to live a life that attracts divine attention and draws eternal blessings. Let’s begin!
[Hi, in case we haven’t met yet, I am Sam Stone, the Lightkeeper—you are the light of the world, and I am the keeper! (No pun intended). It’s my calling to help you shine your brightest so that God is glorified in you, and you are satisfied in God.]
The Scripture lesson today is from the Gospel according to Luke 19:1-10. [Listen to the Word of the Lord!]
He entered Jericho and was passing through it. 2 A man was there named Zacchaeus; he was a chief tax collector and was rich. 3 He was trying to see who Jesus was, but on account of the crowd he could not, because he was short in stature. 4 So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore tree to see him, because he was going to pass that way. 5 When Jesus came to the place, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, hurry and come down; for I must stay at your house today.” 6 So he hurried down and was happy to welcome him. 7 All who saw it began to grumble and said, “He has gone to be the guest of one who is a sinner.” 8 Zacchaeus stood there and said to the Lord, “Look, half of my possessions, Lord, I will give to the poor; and if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I will pay back four times as much.” 9 Then Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because he too is a son of Abraham. 10 For the Son of Man came to seek out and to save the lost.” (Luke 19:1-10).
[Happy are those who delight in the Word of God. Thanks be to God!]
That is the most lighthearted story in the Bible. Children love it because it involves a short person climbing a tree. But, even though it’s a lighthearted story, it’s profound. The story begins by describing Jesus passing through Jericho and meeting this billionaire on the way. Why do I think he was equivalent to today’s billionaire? Let’s look at the context.
“He entered Jericho and was passing through it. A man was there named Zacchaeus; he was a chief tax collector and was rich.” (Luke 19:1-2).
Jericho was one of the oldest cities in Palestine and the primary trade route at that time, a busy location for tax collection. Furthermore, It was a popular vacation spot in the first century because the Herods had built a winter palace with a theater, hippodrome, and beautiful gardens. With a natural spring still active today, it was an oasis in the Judean wilderness.
That region is a goldmine for tax collectors. Furthermore, Zacchaeus was a chief tax collector indicating that he must have many people working under him in this profitable market. As a result, he was rich. Based on the environment, it’s not far-fetched to imagine him as equivalent to a billionaire of our time.
However, as a tax collector, he was an outcast from the Jewish community. Tax collectors worked for the Roman Empire that occupied Judea. So the Jews despised them as traitors who worked for the oppressive foreign government. No rabbi would want to befriend him. But he was curious about Rabbi Jesus.
“He was trying to see who Jesus was, but on account of the crowd he could not, because he was short in stature. So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore tree to see him, because he was going to pass that way.” (Luke 19:3-4).
Both his status and stature prevented him from seeing Jesus, but he didn’t give up. His situation was like the poor widow in the Parable of the Widow and the Unjust Judge. The odds are against him. He was socially despised and physically disadvantaged. His wealth could be another hurdle to salvation. Just before this chapter, Jesus encountered the Rich Young Ruler and said,
“Indeed, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.” (Luke 18:25).
So, wealth is a hurdle for someone to enter the kingdom of God because it could lead to pride, indifference, or hoarding. But Zacchaeus was not affected by his wealth. He maintained humility, just like the tax collector in the Parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector who prayed at the temple.
Humility breeds creativity. Zacchaeus figured out where Jesus was going and devised a plan to see him from above a tree. The sycamore tree has low, spreading branches, making it an ideal perch to watch the parade. Can you imagine how funny it is to see a billionaire scampering ahead of the crowd and scurrying up a tree? There’s no pride in this man. His spirit is wide open for God to dwell.
When Jesus came to the place, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, hurry and come down; for I must stay at your house today.” (Luke 19:5).
Luke left out how Jesus knew Zacchaeus’ name. We know Jesus has spiritual empathy and can notice unusual people from a distance. For example, Jesus saw Nathanael from far away before Philip brought him to Jesus. He must have noticed the man on the tree shunned by the crowd and inquired about him. As the last verse says,
“For the Son of Man came to seek out and to save the lost.” (Luke 19:10).
Jesus had compassion for those who were lost and sought them out. Zacchaeus was also ready to be found. Sometimes people ask, “If God is almighty, why doesn’t he show up before me and make me believe?” Of course, God has the sovereignty to do that, but God also respects your free will. Since God created you with free will, he would rather honor your free will than twist your arms to believe.
The Rich Young Ruler in the previous chapter was given the same invitation, but he left with sadness because he was not willing to give up his possessions. John said in Revelation,
“Listen! I am standing at the door, knocking; if you hear my voice and open the door, I will come in and eat with you, and you with me.” (Rev 3:20).
God prefers to knock on the door than force it open. We must do a small part with our free will to open the door. It’s mutual hospitality. Jesus invited himself to Zacchaeus’s home. Zacchaeus could refuse, but the Bible says,
So he hurried down and was happy to welcome him. (Luke 19:6).
Jesus knocked on the door, Zacchaeus opened the door, and they ate together.
Our relationship with God is like a lavish banquet, as Jesus depicts in his Parable of the Great Banquet. If spirituality is like a great banquet, Zacchaeus’ story reveals the prerequisites of participating in this great banquet—humility, humor, and hospitality. Let’s look at how to attain and maintain these prerequisites.
1. Harness Your Humility
We all know humility is hard to harness. It’s like a wild horse that doesn’t want you to ride on it. The moment you think you are on it, it throws you off its back. The reason we cannot harness humility is due to our ego. We can see in Zacchaeus, an egoless man, willing to be vulnerable in front of people
Jesus also personifies humility. How do we maintain the humility to be Christlike? The way to handle humility is to nail your ego on the cross. Jesus says,
“If any wish to come after me, let them deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.” (Luke 9:23).
Notice it says “daily.” It’s a daily practice because humility is like a muscle—use it or lose it. I am one of those with a huge inflated ego. I’ve discovered a way to tame my ego by adopting John the Baptist’s motto,
“He must increase, but I must decrease.” (John 3:30).
By “he,” John meant Jesus. Because of his down-to-earth humility, Jesus said John was the greatest man born of women. Therefore, it’s a good idea to learn from someone Jesus himself honored as the greatest man on earth. “He must increase, but I must decrease.” As you let Christlikeness in you take shape, your ego will fade away. Along with humility, you will increase in humor.
2. Hone Your Humor
I am talking about good humor because not every humor is good. For example, sarcasm is a type of humor that reveals one’s bitterness. It’s hostility disguised as humor that’s hurtful rather than helpful. Good humor comes from humility. You need to be humble to be funny. Before making people laugh, you must be able to laugh at yourself first.
I have often mentioned that when we read the Bible, we must not miss Jesus’ sense of humor. Some of Jesus’ sayings are meant to be funny and memorable. For example, Jesus said,
“Indeed, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.” (Luke 18:25).
That is a humorous joke in the ears of the first-century Jews. So the disciples must be laughing out loud at Jesus’ statement, “Ha, ha, ha! Oh, Lord, you are so funny! Oh, my Jesus!” It’s a type of humor through exaggeration. Much of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount was meant to be funny and memorable.
Without saying anything, Zacchaeus allowed himself to appear funny. Jesus must find him sitting on the tree amusing and feel a good rapport with him. When you are humble and humorous, you reflect God’s image because God is humble, humorous, and hospitable. So, the next component of salvation is hospitality.
3. Hoist Your Hospitality
Hospitality is a hidden commandment. God burned down Sodom and Gomorrah because they had zero hospitality but excessive hostility. You can read about it in Genesis. On the other hand, hospitality is a reflection of God’s image. Abraham had hospitality, and he ended up entertaining angels.
Jesus depicts spirituality as a great banquet, and he complains that the banquet is ready, but no one comes. Even though Jesus invited himself to Zacchaeus’ home, the hospitality is of Jesus. When God dines with you, you feel honored, so who is the host? Zacchaeus provided the space and food, but Jesus provided hospitality by accepting him instead of treating him as an outcast.
Zacchaeus was grateful, and he wanted to return his hospitality. How do your return hospitality to God, who has everything? God doesn’t want your hospitality but expects you to pay it forward. I wonder if the Rich Young Ruler had told Zacchaeus about that.
Zacchaeus stood there and said to the Lord, “Look, half of my possessions, Lord, I will give to the poor; and if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I will pay back four times as much.” (Luke 19:8).
Zacchaeus extends his hospitality to the poor by giving them half his wealth. That’s a lot of money. That’s the opposite of the Rich Young Ruler in the previous chapter, who refused to give his possessions away. Zacchaeus also had proven he had not defrauded anyone by offering to return four times if he did.
Then Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because he too is a son of Abraham. (Luke 19:9).
Jesus reveals that hospitality is a sign of salvation because that’s what Abraham was. Generosity is a form of hospitality. God generously gave us His Son and invites us to his banquet on his Son’s ticket. Unfortunately, some people outside missed everything.
All who saw it began to grumble and said, “He has gone to be the guest of one who is a sinner.” (Luke 19:7).
Based on the context, these people were mainly the Pharisees and scribes, who had no humility, humor, or hospitality and eventually crucified Jesus on the cross. Let’s not be like them.
Let’s be like Christ, full of humility, humor, and hospitality, because these represent the image of God.
That’s it for today. I hope you find this message illuminating as much as I enjoy receiving it from the Head Office. Until we meet again, keep your light shining brighter and broader, and harvest the fruit of profound freedom and happiness.