They Labeled Him A Sawed-Off Little Crook
Public opinion can be both positive and negative. A good reputation today may be tomorrow’s reversal to one of scorn. People spread their opinions which will elevate or destroy the name and respect of a specific person. Often, we thoughtlessly pass along what others have told us. We do so not knowing whether it is true or not. Should we share what we are not sure is the truth?
There have always been those who are malicious and hateful. God recognizes this in the commandment, “You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor.”
Martin Luther explained this commandment in these words, “We should fear and love God so that we do not tell lies about our neighbor, betray him, slander him, or hurt his reputation, but defend him, speak well of him, and explain everything in the kindest way.”
In the Bible, we hear of Zacchaeus, a wee little man who had a reputation for being the biggest kind of sinner. People looked down on Zacchaeus for his short stature and the fact he was a chief tax collector. Zacchaeus collected taxes for the Romans who ruled the Jews.
Zacchaeus was rich, and people felt that he was rich at their expense. People were convinced that he, like all tax collectors collected way more in taxes than they needed to charge. It is our sinful nature to blame, resent, and reject those who have authority over us. Labeling others and assuming the worst about them makes us feel that we are better than them.
Zacchaeus lived at Jericho, and he heard the rabbi from Nazareth would pass through the city. Crowds were forming to see Jesus, who many claimed to be a prophet of old or the Messiah. Short Zacchaeus climbed a sycamore tree, a type of fig tree, to see Jesus from above the crowd. Was it just curiosity, or did Zacchaeus seek to see Jesus, and find recognition and acceptance in Jesus, that he could not find in his everyday job and life because of how people viewed him as the worst of sinners?
“And when Jesus came to the tree as he passed through Jericho, Jesus looked up into the tree and said, “Zacchaeus, hurry and come down for I must stay at your house today.” So, Zacchaeus hurried down the tree and received Jesus joyfully.
The people of the crowd were outraged and offended that Jesus would go and be a guest of a sawed-off little crook. Zacchaeus responded to their grumbling by saying, “Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor. And if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I restore fourfold.”
With Zacchaeus giving half of his goods to the poor and restoring any overcharging fourfold, he showed Jesus and his critics that he was doing more than any son of Abraham was required to do in the Jewish laws.
In meeting with Jesus, Zacchaeus was delivered from the slander and rejection of his neighbors. Jesus sought out Zacchaeus so that he could be found in his community as an honorable tax collector, one with a pure heart towards God and his neighbor. Jesus came through Jericho to seek and save Zacchaeus lost in slander. Do you defend or condemn others? (Scripture reference Luke 19:1-10 ESV)