The half of my goods I give to the poor - Probably he had already done so for some time past; though it is generally understood that the expressions only refer to what he now purposed to do.
If I have taken any thing - by false accusation - Εσυκοφαντησα, from συκον, a fig, and φαινω, I show or declare; for among the primitive Athenians, when the use of that fruit was first found out, or in the time of a dearth, when all sorts of provisions were exceedingly scarce, it was enacted that no figs should be exported from Attica; and this law (not being actually repealed, when a plentiful harvest had rendered it useless, by taking away the reason of it) gave occasion to ill-natured and malicious fellows to accuse all persons they found breaking the letter of it; and from them all busy informers have ever since been branded with the name of sycophants. Potter's Antiq. vol. i. c. 21, end.
I restore him fourfold - This restitution the Roman laws obliged the tax-gatherers to make, when it was proved they had abused their power by oppressing the people. But here was no such proof: the man, to show the sincerity of his conversion, does it of his own accord. He who has wronged his fellow must make restitution, if he have it in his power. He that does not do so cannot expect the mercy of God. See the observations at the end of Genesis 42 (note), and Numbers 5:7; (note).
The half of my goods I give to the poor - It is not necessary to understand this as affirming that this “had” been his practice, or that he said this in the way of proclaiming his own righteousness. It maybe understood rather as a purpose which he “then” formed under the teaching of Christ. He seems to have been sensible that he was a sinner. Of this he was convinced, as we may suppose, by the presence and discourse of Jesus. At first, attracted only by curiosity, or, it may be, by partial conviction that this was the Messiah, he had sought to see the Saviour; but his presence and conversation convinced him of his guilt, and he stood and openly confessed his sins, and expressed his purpose to give half his ill-gotten property to the poor. This was not a proclamation of his “own” righteousness, nor the “ground” of his righteousness, but it was the “evidence” of the sincerity of his repentance, and the confession which with the mouth is made unto salvation, Romans 10:10.
And if I have taken - His office gave him the power of oppressing the people, and it seems that he did not deny that it had been done.
By false accusation - This is the same word which in Luke 3:14 is rendered “neither accuse any falsely.” The accusation seems to have been so made that the person accused was obliged to pay much greater taxes, or so that his property came into the hands of the informer. There are many ways in which this might be done, but we do not know the exact manner.
I restore him - We cannot suppose that this had been always his practice, for no man would wantonly extort money from another, and then restore him at once four times as much; but it means that he was made sensible of his guilt; perhaps that his mind had been a considerable time perplexed in the matter, and that now he was resolved to make the restoration. This was the “evidence” of his penitence and conversion. And here it may be remarked that this is “always” an indisputable evidence of a man‘s conversion to God. A man who has hoarded ill-gotten gold, if he becomes a Christian, will be disposed to do good with it. A man who has injured others - who has cheated them or defrauded them, “even by due forms of law,” must, if he be a Christian, be willing, as far as possible, to make restoration. Zacchaeus, for anything that appears to the contrary, may have obtained this property by the decisions of courts of justice, but he now felt that it was wrong; and though the defrauded people could not “legally” recover it, yet his conscience told him that, in order to his being a true penitent, he must make restitution. One of the best evidences of true conversion is when it produces this result; and one of the surest evidences that a “professed” penitent is not a “true” one, is when he is “not” disposed to follow the example of this son of Abraham and make proper restitution.
Four-fold - Four times as much as had been unjustly taken. This was the amount that was required in the Jewish law when a sheep had been stolen, and a man was convicted of the theft by trial at law, Exodus 22:1. If he “confessed” it himself, without being “detected” and tried, he had only to restore what was stolen, and add to it a fifth part of its value, Numbers 5:6-7. The sincerity of Zacchaeus‘ repentance was manifest by his being willing to make restoration as great as if it had been proved against him, evincing “his sense” of the wrong, and his purpose to make full restitution. The Jews were allowed to take “no interest” of their brethren Leviticus 25:35-36, and this is the reason why that is not mentioned as the measure of the restitution. When injury of this kind is done in other places, the least that is proper is to restore the principal and interest; for the injured person has a right “to all” that his property would have procured him if it had not been unjustly taken away.
Zacchaeus declared: “If I have taken anything from any man by false accusation, I restore him fourfold.” You could at least have made efforts to correct your acts of injustice to your fellow men. You cannot make every case right, for some whom you have injured have gone into their graves, and the account stands registered against you. In these cases the best you can do is to bring a trespass offering to the altar of the Lord, and He will accept and pardon you. But where you can, you should make reparation to the wronged ones. 5T 339.1
Had the unbelievers with whom you have associated seen in you the transforming power of the truth, they would have had an argument in favor of Christianity which they could not controvert. You might thus have reflected a clear, sharp light to the world; but instead of this you have mingled with the world and imbibed its spirit. My brother, you must be born again. A mere form of Christianity is not of the least value. It is destitute of saving power, having in it no reformative energy. A religion which is confined to Sabbath worship emits no rays of light to others. I entreat you to examine your own heart closely. You have a combative, contentious spirit, and you are cultivating instead of repressing that spirit. You should make a decided change, and cultivate meekness, faith, humility, and love. Your soul is in peril; you will surely be subject to the strong delusions of Satan unless you stop where you are and press against the current of worldliness and ambition. Your relations with the world must be changed, and a decided separation must take place. The positions which you occupy, which are continually opening to you doors of temptation, must be given up. Avoid politics; shun contention. Keep clear of every office which would encourage those traits in your character that need to be battled down and overcome. 5T 339.2
My brother, you must make a strong, decided effort, or you will never be able to cast off the works of darkness. Satan looks upon you as his own. When you listen to the testimonies of God's servants, as at the late camp meeting, you are deeply convicted. But you do not respond to the impressions of the Spirit of God; and as you mingle with worldlings you drink in their spirit and are borne down by the worldly current, having no moral power to resist its influence. You become one with the world-loving, and your spirit is worse than theirs, for your choice is voluntary. You love the praise of men, and you love worldly possessions above Jesus. The love of mammon has been woven into every fiber of your being and has become all-absorbing. To eradicate it will be like plucking out the right eye or cutting off the right arm. But I speak to you as one who knows: Unless you overcome this intense love of money, it will cost you your soul's salvation, and then it would have been better for you had you never been born. 5T 340.1Read in context »
This chapter is based on Luke 19:1-10.
On the way to Jerusalem “Jesus entered and passed through Jericho.” A few miles from the Jordan, on the western edge of the valley that here spread out into a plain, the city lay in the midst of tropic verdure and luxuriance of beauty. With its palm trees and rich gardens watered by living springs, it gleamed like an emerald in the setting of limestone hills and desolate ravines that interposed between Jerusalem and the city of the plain. DA 552.1Read in context »