Summary: Using Zacchaeus as an example, this sermon shows that no matter what our past, we are lovingly accepted by Jesus Christ as His own. Sermon based upon a sermon by Lee Stroebel.
One of your greatest needs in life is to feel valuable; that your life matters; and that you are worthwhile. Because of this, you’ll find yourself looking around and comparing yourself to other people.
In our society we tend to base our self-worth on four things:
1 - We judge our worth first by our appearance.
"How do I look? The better I look, the more I am worth in people’s eyes."
2 - Then we judge our worth by our achievement.
What have I accomplished? "If I am successful, then they will accept me."
3 - Then we judge our worth on approval.
"How well am I liked? If people like me, I must be okay."
4 - Finally, we judge our worth on our affluence.
"Do I have enough toys? If so, people will accept me as their equals." (This is also known as "keeping up with the Jones’)
The problem with these four standards is that none of them are stable. They will all change. Appearances change with time. Others will soon surpass any records that we have set; how well others like you can change in the blink of an eye; and your affluence can change with one bad choice.
The trouble with letting things like these dictate your self-worth is that your self-worth will always be changing and you will never know from one moment to the next where you stand. And, what do you think your self-worth will be when those things change?
If you want to build your self-esteem in such a way as to make it last, you’ve got to build it on something that won’t change. And there’s only one thing that won’t change, and that is what God thinks about you.
When we understand what God thinks of us, it changes the way we see ourselves, and that starts changing our hearts to be Christ-like.
There is a very good example of that in the New Testament. It involves a man named Zacchaeus, and we are going to talk about him this morning.
Zacchaeus was a man who lived in the city of Jericho. One day Jesus came to Jericho and Zacchaeus had an encounter with Jesus that changed his life.
LUKE 19:1-4 tells us about that encounter.
“Jesus entered Jericho and made His way through the town. There was a man there named Zacchaeus. He was one of the most influential Jews in the Roman tax collecting business; and he had become very rich. He tried to get a look at Jesus, but he was too short to see over the crowds. So, he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore tree beside the road, so he could watch from there.”
Zacchaeus was hoping to see this Jesus; the man everyone was talking about. He didn’t know this, but he needed Jesus in the worst of ways. If there was ever a man who needed a stronger sense of self worth, it was Zacchaeus, because in the four ways we evaluate ourselves, he struck out in the first three.
His appearance was not the most beautiful to look at because of his short stature; the only real achievements he ever had was overcharging people and cheating them for his own financial gain; and his approval rating was in the sewer because he collected taxes from the Jews and gave them to the Roman government. But, he was wealthy.
First of all, to become a tax collector you had to bribe an official. Secondly, Rome told you how much to collect, and if you were able to collect more, you could keep the extra. Similar to what it seems like the IRS does to us sometimes today. Zacchaeus was pretty good at gouging his fellow Jews, so he ended up being quite wealthy.
For a Jewish man to become a Roman tax collector was unthinkable. This was high treason. It was like going over to Iraq and joining the terrorists who are fighting against us today. You would be hated for being a traitor. If you became a Roman tax collector as a Jew it meant three things.
One, your family would disown you.
Two, you would never be allowed to worship in the synagogue, and
Three, you’d be looked at as bad as a murderer.
As a result, Zacchaeus was miserable on the inside. How do I know that? It’s very simple. I know because you can’t have a guilty conscious and feel good about yourself at the same time. He knew that he was ripping people off, and that would have caused him to lose most of his self-respect over a period of time. What we have here is a guy who has a lot of money but doesn’t like himself. But one day, a brief encounter with Jesus, changed his life. Why? Because he learned how much he mattered to God.