Tale of Two Rich Men
Many of us are familiar with the story of Zacchaeus,
the “wee little man” (as the Sunday school song
goes) who climbed up a sycamore tree to see
Jesus passing by. However, Luke sets Zacchaeus’ story in
close context to the story of another rich man—a young
and wealthy leader who visited Jesus. The proximity of
the two narratives highlights stark contrasts:
• The young rich man believed he was righteous,
stressing how he had “obeyed all [the] commandments”
since he was young (18:21). Zacchaeus, however, said
that if he had “cheated people on their taxes, he would
give them back four times as much” (19:8).
• The people believed the young rich man to be
righteous and were sure that if he wasn’t close to God,
nobody was (18:26), while nobody believed Zacchaeus
was righteous, calling him a “notorious sinner” (19:7).
• The young man wanted his wealth more than he
wanted God. When Jesus invited him to give his money
away and follow Him, he “became very sad, for he was
very rich” (18:23). When Zacchaeus encountered Jesus,
however, he “quickly climbed down and took Jesus to his
house in great excitement and joy” (19:6).
The only similarity between the two seems to be
that they were both wealthy. Everything contrasted from
there. And it becomes obvious that the primary issue
wasn’t their money, but their heart. Jesus asked the young
rich man to give away everything (an extreme request for a proud man who
needed to see he wasn’t as righteous as he considered himself to be). But He
didn’t ask Zacchaeus to give up anything. His only request was for an invitation
to eat at his house.
After encountering real love and true righteousness, Zacchaeus repented
Review both passages again. What other contrasts do you see?
Any similarities? What other clues do you find as to their different heartposture
Are you more like the rich young man (selfdependent) or Zacchaeus
(quick to receive mercy)? Would God ask you to give away everything or
to invite Him to dinner?