Christianity 201

May 11, 2013

Just Deserts

This is from the popular website Crosswalk.com where it appeared recently under the title Comeuppance: A Study in Stewardship.

Micah 2:1-5 (New International Version)
Man’s Plans and God’s
1 Woe to those who plan iniquity, to those who plot evil on their beds! At morning’s light they carry it out because it is in their power to do it. 2 They covet fields and seize them, and houses, and take them. They defraud a man of his home, a fellowman of his inheritance. 3 Therefore, the LORD says: “I am planning disaster against this people, from which you cannot save yourselves. You will no longer walk proudly, for it will be a time of calamity. 4 In that day men will ridicule you; they will taunt you with this mournful song: ‘We are utterly ruined; my people’s possession is divided up. He takes it from me! He assigns our fields to traitors.’ ” 5 Therefore you will have no one in the assembly of the LORD to divide the land by lot.

God’s plans will override those of the swindlers Micah describes. And that sounds only fair, doesn’t it? In fact, we get a certain sense of satisfaction when we read about the just deserts coming to these terrible individuals. It goes without saying that we can identify with the swindled, or at least that we stand with them in our righteous disgust over the injustice they are experiencing.

Pastor and author Bill Hybels points out in a sermon that each of us is born with closed fingers. He goes on to describe ways in which that grasping response stays with us until finally, in death, we relax our grip. That sounds pretty consistent with Micah’s oppressors. But Hybels is talking about you and me.

When we get to the Gospels, we see Jesus responding to peoples’ greed and oppression in a different manner than the judgment described in Micah 2:1–5. Hybels envisions a scene between Jesus and a certain swindler named Zacchaeus.

Luke 19:1-10 (New International Version)

Zacchaeus the Tax Collector
1 Jesus entered Jericho and was passing through. 2 A man was there by the name of Zacchaeus; he was a chief tax collector and was wealthy. 3 He wanted to see who Jesus was, but being a short man he could not, because of the crowd. 4 So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore-fig tree to see him, since Jesus was coming that way. 5 When Jesus reached the spot, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I must stay at your house today.” 6 So he came down at once and welcomed him gladly. 7 All the people saw this and began to mutter, “He has gone to be the guest of a ‘sinner.’ ” 8 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.” 9 Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because this man, too, is a son of Abraham. 10 For the Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost.”

Zacchaeus was a clutcher… until he had dinner with Jesus…

Here is what I imagine Jesus might have said over dinner: “Hey, Zacchaeus. What your heart yearns for will never be satisfied by that which you are hanging on to so tightly. Your heart was meant to be in deep communion with God and in loving community with other people in the Family of God. You have walked away from that kind of communion and are settling for something far less. You are settling for trying to meet the needs of your heart by clutching stuff.”

I think Jesus might have gone on, “You know what I am going to do for you? In the not too distant future, I am going to open up my hands and they are going to receive steel spikes so that guys like you with hands like yours can be changed. I am going to be so generous to you, Zacchaeus. I am going to take your sin and greed and lack of love and I am going to pay for it on the cross and present salvation to you as a gift.

“And I won’t stop there. I am going to adopt you into my family. I am going to answer your prayers. I am going to give you strength through the storms of life. And I am going to give you heaven on top of all.”

At a certain point in the conversation, I think the enormity of Jesus’ generosity melted Zacchaeus and something changed on the inside. Zacchaeus emerges with his voice trembling with excitement and newfound conviction …

When your heart gets transformed by generous grace, your hands have a way of opening up.

Maybe it isn’t so hard after all to see ourselves on the negative side of justice, at least some of the time. None of us looks forward to comeuppance, but “Come to me, … and I will give you rest” (Mt 11:28) sounds inviting.

Think About It

•What weighs most heavily on you?

•Are you ready to let it go?

•Are you willing, like Zacchaeus, to allow your life to be transformed?

Pray About It

Lord, transform my life by your power and presence. Help me to fully realize the extent of Jesus’ gifts to me.


Christianity 201 is a melting-pot of devotional and Bible study content from across the widest range of the Christian blogosphere. An individual article may be posted even if some or all readers might not agree with other things posted at the same blog, and two posts may follow on consecutive days by authors with very different doctrinal perspectives. The Kingdom of God is so much bigger than the small portion of it we can see from our personal vantage point, and one of the purposes of C201 is to allow readers a ‘macro’ view of the many ministries and individual voices available for reading. You might even decide to make some of these a daily habit.