As a chief tax collector for the vicinity of Jericho, Zacchaeus was an employee of the Roman Empire. Under the Roman system, men bid on those positions, pledging to raise a certain amount of money. Anything they raised over that amount was their personal profit. Luke says Zacchaeus was a wealthy man, so he must have extorted a great deal from the people and encouraged his subordinates to do so as well.
Jesus was passing through Jericho one day, but because Zacchaeus was a short man, he could not see over the crowd. He ran ahead and climbed a sycamore tree to get a better view. Jesus, looking up and seeing him, told Zacchaeus to come down because he would stay at his house.
The crowd, however, muttered that Jesus would be socializing with a sinner. Jews hated tax collectors because they were dishonest tools of the oppressive Roman government.
At Jesus' call to him, Zacchaeus promised to give half his money to the poor and repay fourfold anyone he had cheated. Jesus told Zacchaeus he would see salvation because Jesus came to seek and save the lost.
Zacchaeus is not mentioned again after that episode, but we can assume his repentant spirit and his acceptance of Christ did, indeed, lead to his salvation.
Accomplishments of Zacchaeus:He collected taxes for the Romans, overseeing the customs charges on the trade routes through Jericho and levying taxes on individual citizens in that area.
Zacchaeus' Strengths:Zacchaeus must have been efficient, organized, and aggressive in his work. He was also a seeker after the truth. When he repented, he paid back those he had cheated.
Zacchaeus' Weaknesses:The very system Zacchaeus worked under encouraged corruption. He must have fit in well because he made himself wealthy from it. He cheated his fellow citizens, taking advantage of their powerlessness.
Life Lessons:Jesus Christ came to save sinners then and now. No one is beyond his help. His love is a constant call to repent and come to him. Accepting his invitation leads to forgiveness of sins and eternal life.
Referenced in the Bible:Luke 19:1-10.
Occupation:Chief tax collector.
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." (NIV)
"Today salvation has come to this house, because this man, too, is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost." (NIV)
Jack Zavada, a career writer and contributor for About.com, is host to a Christian website for singles. Never married, Jack feels that the hard-won lessons he has learned may help other Christian singles make sense of their lives. His articles and ebooks offer great hope and encouragement. To contact him or for more information, visit Jack's Bio Page.