Zacchaeus is NOT my favorite character in scripture. The guy is a stumpy conman, wheedling his way through life. Corrupt. Unlikable. Nasty.
Too bad he's my grandfather.
And he might be yours too.
After all, Zacchaeus was not the only tax collector in town during Jesus' day. He was not the only one benefiting from a corrupt system that oppressed the poor and enriched the rich.
In fact, throughout history there have always been people like Zacchaeus, entire segments of society, whole nations even, who lived comfortable lives because they were exploiting others.
And sadly, the vast majority of those folks never came face to face with Jesus. They never repented of their sins of injustice. They never fell to their knees, bent over with the realization of what they had done to others. They never cried out, "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."
And so, their wealth was never redistributed back to the poor and the cheated. It was passed on, kept within the family.
I inherited it. And maybe you did too.
That wealth is the foundation of my privilege. It is the head-start I got in life. I didn't steal it in the first place. But surely, SURELY, I have some responsibility for it now.
Face to face with Jesus I stand.
Zacchaeus was my grandfather, my great-great-great-great grandfather. He got rich off the backs of those he exploited. He was the white man who enslaved blacks and set them to work in the fields for his profit. He was the colonizer who stole the land of the indigenous people and sent them away with trinkets and liquor.
He is long gone now, but his wealth and privilege remain. And so I respond...
"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."