Join us for the last week of our series on one-word life-changers, Simple Words. Each week we’ve looked at one simple word that can actually change your life if you allow it to. We have explored what Yes and No mean and how Help and Sorry can change our actions and perception. This week we look at a tremendous word. It’s a word that can bring enormous freedom and meaning, but it’s the most countercultural word of this series, Enough.
In our consumer culture, we are constantly bombarded with the idea of more, and this culture often means that we take and consume. We consume not only material things, but we think that if we just buy enough or gain enough that we will be happy, fulfilled, and purposeful. It leaves us with a never-ending need for more, so not only do we often struggle with giving, but we also struggle with understanding when something is enough.
This story and the ever-present need for more isn’t just culturally fixated; we see a similar problem in the Bible. Zacchaeus, a tax collector, never had enough, and it drove his actions and his vocation to a place in which he was alienated from the community. Yet a simple encounter with Jesus changed that; it reversed his thoughts and his actions, and he found himself enough.
Join us this week as we hear and reflect on the story of Jesus and Zacchaeus and learn, as a community, what Enough really means for our Christ-centered living.
Alright, this will be the last message in this series on one-word life-changers. Each week we’ve looked at one simple word that, if you allow it to, can actually change your life. This week, we look at a tremendous word. It’s a word that can bring enormous freedom and meaning, but it’s the most countercultural word of this series. I’d like to get to it like this — there are two different ways you can do life. And this can be expressed physically with your hand. If you were to take your hand and squeeze it into a fist like there was something in there you really wanted to hold on to. You’re clenching it. You’re squeezing it. You do not want to let it go. You can go through life that way with your stuff. You can live that kind of life. Or you can take your hand and open it up before God — saying to God, “Whatever comes into my life, I’ll hold it loosely. I’ll share it easily. I’ll trust you fully.” You can go through life with your hand clenched or you can go through life with your hand opened. The word that’s behind this kind of life is the word Enough. — To say, “God, I’ll trust that you’ll give me enough, that you’re the God of enough, that you’re the God of abundance, so I don’t have to be a taker.” So many people go through life as takers. You can smell it. I have a taker inside me. You have a taker inside you. I don’t want to be a taker; I want to be a giver. I want to live life with an empty hand. And that actually starts by saying, “Enough. I have enough. I’ve had enough. I don’t need more.” In fact, the inability to say, “Enough,” which is rampant where we live, is actually fatal. You know, this is true for many species. Take a goldfish for example. If you were to think, “It must be a dull life being a goldfish swimming around in a little fish bowl; there nothing else to do besides swim all day,” so you take all of the fish food and dump it into the bowl, what will happen to that fish? It will die. Because a goldfish is not smart enough to be able to say, “Enough. I’ve had enough.” Maybe you’re wondering how I know that’s true. Well I had a goldfish once when I was a kid. There’s a Stanford researcher who did a famous research project. He asked people in Paris, France, “When do you know you’ve had enough to eat?” It’s very interesting. In Paris, the most common answer is, “When I feel full. Then I stop. I just say ‘enough.’” They asked people in America (I think it was in the midwest somewhere), and the answer was completely different. People said, “Either it’s when the food is all gone, when my plate is clean, or when the television show I’m watching while I’m eating is done. Then I figure I’ve had enough.” They did these experiments that became famous in social science circles, where they would give people bowls of soup, and half of the subjects got what are called bottomless bowls of soup. They have soup, but the bottomless bowls are actually secretly filled from underneath the tablecloth. They find that people whose bowls keep getting filled end up eating about twice as much food as people whose bowls are not miraculously filled. * Not because they’re hungry. * Not because they need it. * It’s because we don’t know when to say, “Enough.” Now, this is true when it comes to stuff and possessions and money. We all want to think of ourselves as generous people. I don’t know anyone who sets out to go through life with their hand clenched. But I want to invite you to have the courage to take a look at yourself, because as a nation, we don’t live with our hand opened. The state-of-the-art study on generosity in our day most recently is a book called American Generosity. The researchers found that 84 percent of Americans give away 0 to 1 percent of their income. Millions of people who have way more than enough. In this land where God has given us so much we just give nothing. Only 3 percent of Americans give at the level of a tithe. If you know much about the Bible, you know God established this practice with Israel a long time ago called tithing. Tithe means you give 10 percent of whatever God brings into your life as an expression of trust. — “God, you’ll give me enough. As an expression of trust and generosity, whatever comes into my life, I will give 10 percent automatically, immediately back to you.” Ninety-seven percent of people who live in this land of so much abundance, of way more than enough, do not give at that level. If you’re not doing that, I hope you think about that today as a result of this message. “Am I going to live with a clenched fist or am I going to live with an opened hand?” Now there’s a reason we end up living with a clenched fist. We don’t set out to. I was thinking this week you could kind of picture it this way — For all of us, there’s whatever amount of money I have, my current level of income and possessions. Then another amount is the amount I want, the amount I think would be enough. The amount in between what I have and what I think would be enough is the discontentment zone, because I think, “I don’t have enough right now, but if I had that much, as much as that other person, then I would be content.” We’ll spend our whole lives trying to fill this gap — Work harder. Work longer. Run faster. Acquire more. We’ll work so hard to do that, and maybe we’ll have more, but we still won’t be content, because then we think enough would be even more. It turns out that what I thought was enough isn’t enough. Enough ends up being this very elusive amount, and now I have a new discontentment zone. People go through their whole life and think, “Man, if I just had more stuff, more money, a bigger house, a newer car — I’m not there yet, but I’ll get there someday.” We think, “If I could just afford stuff that costs more money, if my moments had a bigger price tag attached to them.” It’s so insane, and we should know this from really early on. When our kids were very small, we took them to Disneyland. We went in July when it was terribly hot. It was like 98 degrees in the shade. Disney characters in costume were dropping of heatstroke. We got there really early in the morning. By about 1:30 in the afternoon, the kids were just miserable. They were cranky and hot and just wanted to go on the small world ride because it was air conditioned. The adults couldn’t stand to hear “It’s a Small World” on repeat for one more ride. So I said, “We can’t go on ‘It’s a Small World. You haven’t seen Snow White yet.” I’m trying to pump them up. “You haven’t seen Snow White yet.” “I don’t care about Snow White. I just want to go on It’s a Small World.” “We can’t go on It’s a Small World. We haven’t gone on the Pirates of the Caribbean yet.” “I don’t care about the pirates. I just want to go on It’s a Small World.” “We can’t go ‘It’s a Small World,’ because I paid $100 for you to come to the Happiest Place on Earth, and I expect $100 worth of happiness. So you give it to me right now or I’ll give you something to be happy about.” We go through life thinking happiness can be purchased. — “If I just had enough money, then I would have enough happy.” Let me tell you — Selfish people are the most miserable people. And generous people are the most joyful people. It’s just true. Look around. Do your own research. You’ll find that selfish people are the most miserable people. And generous people are the most joyful people. So I ask you — will you declare, “Enough!” I know this is countercultural. Because we live in a part of the world that will tell you — “If you ever declare ‘enough,’ if you’re not getting more and bigger and better, you’re not living the good life.” But the reality is — to say, “I have enough, and I want to move into generous living.” — It’s countercultural, but it’s the only way that leads to joy. We’re going to learn today about a man who discovered the word enough. And this is not really about him. It’s about God’s call for you and for me. What if you were to say, “Enough”? — “I have enough. God, I’m trusting you, and I want to become a generous person.” What if our church was to be the church of the open hand? Alright this is the story from Luke 19: Jesus entered Jericho and was passing through. A man was there by the name of Zacchaeus; he was a chief tax collector and was wealthy. Luke 19:1-2 From just these few words, we already know a fair amount about Zacchaeus. * Zacchaeus understood money. * He was good with money. * He was highly motivated by money. We know this, because Israel was occupied by Rome, and Rome had learned when they would occupy a country — “Don’t exile the people. Leave most of them there. Just tax them.” Then Rome could get a lot of money. That meant they would need from within Israel a few people who would serve as tax collectors, because those are the guys who knew where the wealth is. A tax collector would be someone in Israel who could say, “This guy has 50 sheep and 50 head of cattle and 100 acres, and you could get a lot of money out of him.” People in Israel didn’t like tax collectors, because they colluded with the oppressive Romans. If I’m a rich Israelite, I’ll go to a guy like Zacchaeus and say, “Man, don’t tell Rome about all my money.” Then Zacchaeus, tax collectors, would typically say, “Well, okay, but if you want me to be quiet, you’re going to have to pay me off, because I have to give them something.” Then often the tax collector would go ahead and tell the Romans anyhow. So no one liked tax collectors. That’s Zacchaeus’ game. He’s already given up on relationships and community. No one likes him. But he’s okay with that because he’s rich and he’s really good at it. But over time, there’s something empty about it. There’s a hunger inside of him for something more. Something is happening in his heart. So he’s interested in this man Jesus — this rabbi, this spiritual teacher. You would never expect a tax collector, let alone a chief wealthy tax collector, to be interested in a spiritual teacher, but he is. It’s the strangest thing. He wanted to see who Jesus was, but because he was short he could not see over the crowd. So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore-fig tree to see him, since Jesus was coming that way. Luke 19:3-4 You’ll notice in this story there are a lot of interesting little details. It’s not just a tree. It’s a sycamore-fig tree. Scholars say, almost certainly, Luke (the writer of the gospel of Luke) got these details directly from Zacchaeus. And these details reveal just how unusual this story is. In the ancient Middle Eastern world, rich powerful men didn’t run. It wasn’t dignified. They all wore robes. You can’t run well in a robe. But Zacchaeus runs. Something in him really wants to see Jesus, wants to get ahead of the crowd. In the ancient Middle Eastern world, a rich powerful man never climbed trees in public where other people could see him. They’d be mocked for doing that. Even in our day, rich powerful people don’t do that very much. But Zacchaeus does that, because he really wants to see Jesus. And maybe he wants to hide. We’re told in this story that he’s short. You may know the old song kids used to sing in Sunday school. “Zacchaeus was a wee little man.” No one likes to be a wee little man. And maybe that’s part of why Zacchaeus was so drawn to money. Money can make you feel big. Money can make you feel like somebody. Money can make people look at you like you must be somebody, like you must be a big man. But this must be wearing off for Zacchaeus, like it always does. Then the most amazing thing happens. He’s up in a tree. He doesn’t want anyone to see him. He’s a tax collector. No one likes him. He thinks he’s hidden, but he’s going to be able to see Jesus. Then Jesus does what no one expects. When Jesus reached the spot, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I must stay at your house today.” Luke 19:5 Really, Jesus? Of all the houses in Jericho, of all the religious people, of all the rabbis who are there, of all the other devout people. You’re going to go stay at the home of this horribly corrupt bureaucrat? Really? You see, the thing about Jesus is — this is wonderful news. Whatever your financial story — * Maybe you’re a train wreck. * Maybe you’ve been through bankruptcy. * Maybe you feel like a failure. * Maybe you’ve been dishonest. * Maybe you’ve been greedy. * Maybe you’ve cheated. * Maybe you’ve embezzled. * Maybe you’ve been in prison. None of that is a barrier to Jesus coming to your house today. He loves bringing grace to anyone who will open themselves up. The strangest thing happens — Zacchaeus, who at first must have been like, “No! Jesus, don’t look up here.” He comes on down. And he says, “You’ve got to be kidding Jesus. My house?” This is astounding. No one saw this coming. In fact, the story goes on. All the people saw this and began to mutter, “He has gone to be the guest of a sinner.” Luke 19:7 And we know how much they hate this. Quite often in the Bible, Jesus does stuff that will tick one group off or another, so people mutter. * Sometimes the Pharisees mutter. * Sometimes the Sadducees mutter. This is the only time in all of the New Testament that we’re told ALL of the people mutter at what Jesus did, because no one likes a tax collector. — “Jesus is going to the home of Zacchaeus? Seriously?” Alright, we’ll talk more about this story in just a moment. Announcement Alright, so Jesus goes to the home of Zacchaeus. Wouldn’t you love to know what the conversation between Jesus and Zacchaeus was like? We don’t get to know, except for the very end. Whatever it was, it triggers these thoughts that Zacchaeus has never had before, and he starts to think about his financial life. He looks at the house he’s lived in that he’s really proud of, but it starts to look different to him, like maybe it’s kind of a prison. I wonder if Jesus was saying stuff to him like, “Zacchaeus, your whole life long you’ve been a money guy. You get money, and you love money, but is it getting you where you hoped it would? “Zacchaeus, there was a time when you had to walk everywhere because you had nothing, and then you became a tax collector and you got really good at it. One day you could buy a donkey, and that was pretty cool. Then the thrill kind of wore off, and then you thought, ‘Hey, I could get rid of my donkey and upgrade to a camel.’” [The camel in the ancient world is kind of like a Hummer in our day, kind of like an all-terrain vehicle. That would be cool.] “Then the thrill kind of wore off on that, so you got a camel with two humps.” [Those are quite rare in the Middle East, and that’s like having a luxury camel with a little safety seat for the kids in the middle of the two humps.] “Then eventually that new camel smell wears off, and the thrill is kind of gone from that, and now you have a whole fleet of camels. How many camels is it going to take, Zacchaeus? “You used to have to wear shabby clothes, and then you started getting some money, and you bought a silk robe. That was cool. Then you got another one. Then you got a whole closet full of them. “Then you had your colors done, and you found out you were a ‘winter’ and all of your robes were earth tone, and that’s not good, so you got rid of all of those old robes and got all brand new beautiful silk robes. “You have so many closets full of them you can’t even wear them all. How many more robes do you need, Zacchaeus? “You used to have to live in a tent. Then you got in a house. Then you bought riverfront property on the Jordan. Now you have the biggest, nicest house in town, and that’s not doing it for you. How big does the house have to be?” [In other words, you can be satisfied with your money, but you can never be satisfied in your money. Only in God.] “Zacchaeus, you could find joy and contentment. You could surrender everything to me. You could follow me. You could be a generous man. You could use whatever resources God has given you to feed the hungry. People would bless you instead of curse you.” You see, this moment was an incredible moment for Zacchaeus. Maybe he’s never thought about these things before. Now it’s like his heart is pounding out of his chest. And then this very dramatic moment comes in the story. But Zacchaeus stood up… Luke 19:8 In the ancient world at a dinner, hospitality and civility was a big deal. Often the host of a formal banquet at some point would stand and recognize all of the people there and give honor to the primary guest. So it’s not really surprising that Zacchaeus stands. But when he stands, he doesn’t address the people. He doesn’t do the after-dinner speech. He just looks at Jesus. It’s like for Zacchaeus, in that moment — it’s only Jesus and him. His heart is racing. He has to say this now. He can’t wait another moment. Zacchaeus stands up and says: “Look, Lord! Here and now I give half of my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody out of anything, [Of course he’s cheated everybody out of everything.] I will pay back four times the amount.” Luke 19:8 Now, everyone is stunned. Mrs. Zacchaeus is thinking, “Hey, shouldn’t we have talked about this before you stood up and announced this?” The kids are wondering, “Does this mean I’m not getting my own camel anymore?” But Zacchaeus is so captivated by the possibility of a new way of life with Jesus and a new means to do something with his stuff that he recalculates everything in light of the kingdom of God. He says, “Here’s what I have, but enough is less than what I have, so here’s what I’m going to do. The difference between what would be enough for me and what I have could become the generosity zone instead of the discontentment zone. Here and now, I’m putting a stake in the ground.” The man stood up. He’s going public with this. — “I’m giving away 50 percent. I believe 50 percent of what I have with God is more than 100 percent without God.” That’s a pretty staggering thought. “I’ll make things right. I’ll pay back whoever I’ve cheated.” Then Jesus stands up, and he doesn’t do the after-dinner speech and talk about what a nice meal it was. He just looks right at little Zacchaeus, tears flooding down his face. You have to understand what’s going on here. Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because this man, too, is a son of Abraham.” Luke 19:9-10 This language is not accidental, and there’s a reason why Zacchaeus would remember this until the day he died. If you were an Israelite, about the greatest phrase that could be used to describe you would be a son of Abraham or a daughter of Sarah. Abraham and Sarah were where Israel started. Zacchaeus was a corrupt tax collector who colluded with Rome. No one would have called him a “son of Abraham.” Maybe a son of something else, but not a son of Abraham. He can’t believe Jesus calls him that. What a gracious, amazing person Jesus was. What an amazing thing it must have been to sit down at a table with Jesus. Jesus says, “Salvation has come to this house.” What he means is not Zacchaeus has bought his way into heaven. * You can’t buy your way in. * You can’t earn your way in. It comes as a gift of grace. Jesus stopped by that tree way before Zacchaeus had done anything to merit anything. That word salvation is often translated healing or deliverance, and it means something more than just — “If you believe the right thing, you get to go to heaven when you die.” It means now for Zacchaeus that disease of “more” that has been corroding his soul is being healed. He’s being delivered from that treadmill that he’s been running on forever and going nowhere. Here’s the thing about this word enough. — Enough is not a level of wealth you achieve; it’s a statement of trust you declare. Economists will talk about what’s sometimes called the rational theory of choice. The idea is people face their financial lives, if they’re rational, by way of thinking, “It’s just straight math. As long as I have 100 percent and I keep 100 percent, I own 100 percent. If some of that goes away from me, then I get less. Then I’ve lost something.” The writers of Scripture contest that view of financial reality. This is what God says, and you have to decide if you believe this or not. If you spend yourselves on behalf of the hungry and satisfy the needs of the oppressed, then [notice — If you do that, then] your light will rise in the darkness, and your night will become like the noonday. The LORD will guide you always; he will satisfy your needs [Not he will gratify your every desire. He will satisfy your needs] in a sun-scorched land. You will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail. Isaiah 58:10-11 Now, you have to decide — “Do you believe that or not?” To people who think money is just about the math, God says there’s a new kind of math. And Zacchaeus says, “I believe in a new kind of math, where 50 percent of what I have with Jesus is more than 100 percent of what I have without Jesus.” There’s a great book called Charity, and this is its thesis — “Generosity is not just a good deed but a declaration of belief about the world and the God who created it.” I choose not to live a materialistic life, because I believe the world is not at its core materialistic but is rather spiritual. It was started in a burst of generosity on the part of God, and God operates on the basis of generosity. God loves to give, and you cannot out-give God. When you step into a life of generosity, you are stepping into the jet stream of the kingdom of God. If you don’t do that and you go through life saying, “It’s all about ‘more’ — more money and nicer possessions and more square feet,” you’re headed down a road for ruin and folly. You don’t even have to believe the Bible. All you have to do is look at the end of every human life, because every human being, no matter how big a house they may live in for a certain period of time, ends up in a little pine box. We all get the same number of feet. Do you know how many? Six feet. We all end up with the same thing. So, I ask you — will you say “Enough,” like little Zacchaeus? There’s a parable in AA circles I like a lot. A guy who’s drunk and miserable is walking down the street and meets God. He says, “God, I can’t stand it anymore. Would you give me sobriety?” God says, “Well, I’ll do it, but you’ll have to give me all your money. It’s a costly gift.” The guy says, “Okay, it’s worth it.” He has $50 in his wallet. He says, “Here, God. Take it all.” God says, “Okay, here’s the gift of sobriety.” The guy says, “Oh, that’s great. Thank you. But now you took all my money. How am I going to put gas in my car?” God says, “Oh, you have a car. You didn’t tell me that. You have to give me your car.” The guy says, “Alright, God. Here’s my car, but now how am I going to get to my job?” God says, “Oh, you have a job. You didn’t tell me that. You’re going to have to give me your job.” The guy says, “Alright, but then how am I going to take care of my mortgage?” God says, “Mortgage? You have a house? You didn’t tell me. You have to give me your house.” The guy says, “Well, how am I going to take care of my family?” God says, “Here’s the deal. You give me all your money, you give me your car, you give me your job, you give me your house, and then I’ll be with you and I’ll take care of you, and you can use my money and drive my car and work at my job and live in my house.” The earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof, and we just get to steward it for a little while. One day it will all go back to him. When we steward it with generosity, it just works better than when we hold it with a clenched fist. So here’s my dream for you and me. I get that it’s scary, but what if we were the church of the open hand? Being where we are in the Bay Area — * where there has been an explosion of wealth unprecedented in the history of the world * an explosion of affluence unprecedented in the history of the world * an explosion of discontentment and envy unprecedented in the world What if we became a community of the open hand? What if you did this? Again, I get the fear part. I feel it too. But I just want to ask you this as your pastor — as someone who wants you to experience joy and life to the fullest — when it comes to your finances, are you tithing? Have you made that commitment that the first 10 percent is going to God? I have to tell you — If you’re not, you’re missing out. If you’re not trusting God with what he has given you, you’re missing out on the kind of life he has for you. If you haven’t done that, I hope you do. And I hope what happened to little Zacchaeus happens to you. I hope this is the day you put a stake in the ground and declare, “Here and now, God, I’m going to be a generous person, and I will trust that less is more if you’re in it.” Alright, so that’s the word enough. It’s a great word, and it’s yours if you want it. Let me pray for you. Would you bow your head and close your eyes? I want to invite you now to talk to God about this. If you want to, just open your palm up. Just take it from a clenched fist to an open palm before God. And whatever you need to tell him. — “God, I feel like I’ve messed up my financial life. God, I’m scared.” Jesus is with you right now, just like he was with little Zacchaeus. He’s just waiting to hear from you. Blue Oaks Church Pleasanton, CA