For the Neighbor--Pt III
Week 5, Day 5
Matthew 22. 34-40 For the Neighbor—Pt III
“Justice is what love looks like in public” Cornel West
Matthew 22. 34-40
When the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together, and one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test. ‘Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?’ Jesus said to him, ‘ “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.” This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.’
Lk 19. 1-10 (Read the whole story below)
"Jesus entered Jericho and was passing through it. A man was there named Zacchaeus; he was a chief tax-collector and was rich."
Zacchaeus meets Jesus—which is to say, he comes face to face with the in person generosity and kindness of God, and the world changes. At least his world changes.
Zacchaeus becomes the neighbor. He becomes neighbor to the very people he has lived among for years and has been cheating for nearly as long.
And it costs him something. “Half of my possessions I will give to the poor (he says); and if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I will pay back four times as much.”
Here we see one of the odd ironies of neighborliness—particularly for someone whose shut up heart and clenched hands are opened by the generosity of grace. Financially, Zacchaeus is poorer by half—and then some. But, in the things that matter—forgiveness, community, friendship, he is immeasurably richer.
The things he could never have bought, but all human beings long for, are suddenly available in abundance. Not all at once, of course. His new neighbors would take some convincing. They’d have to see the fruit of this transformation before they would believe it. But it comes.
Jesus calls what happens to Zacchaeus “salvation”. “Today salvation has come to this house”, he says. The word he uses means health and wholeness. To be “saved” is to be made whole; and it comes to him “today”.
New Testament salvation, you see, has almost nothing to do with getting into heaven and everything to with living a whole and undivided life today. That is the generosity of grace. The sweet by and by, it turns out, is in fact the sweet here and now.
And notice why salvation comes the house of Zacchaeus. It isn’t because he gives away half his money. It’s “because he too is a son of Abraham.” Zacchaeus (just like poor Lazarus in yesterday’s story, and I would argue even the poor rich man who couldn’t see Lazarus) was a son of Abraham before he came down from the sycamore tree.
As a child of Abraham he was already part of the family; already belonged in the kingdom of God. He just hadn’t realized who he was or what it meant to be a child of Abraham. How could he? Until Jesus, The Neighbor, called him out of his tree—until he came face to face with the generosity and kindness of God, he was blind to his own true self.
So the story we’ve been telling this week, you see, actually begins with the neighborliness of God; the generosity of grace that opens our eyes to who we are. And it is this generosity of grace, as well, that opens our hearts and hands to the neighbor next door—to our community, our country, our world, our planet home. All of whom need, now more than ever, for us to treat them in a neighborly fashion.
Listen. The neighbor still calls. “Zacchaeus, hurry and come down; for I must stay at your house today.”
Prayer: In your neighborly kindness, Neighbor God, we glimpse the people you created. Call us down from whatever tree we’ve climbed so we can live, by your generous grace, the life undivided and whole. Amen.
Lk 19. 1-10
He entered Jericho and was passing through it. A man was there named Zacchaeus; he was a chief tax-collector and was rich. 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. 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.’ So he hurried down and was happy to welcome him. All who saw it began to grumble and said, ‘He has gone to be the guest of one who is a sinner.’ 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.’ Then Jesus said to him, ‘Today salvation has come to this house, because he too is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek out and to save the lost.’