Short Change: Saving Zacchaeus, Pt 2

On July 31, 2013, at about 10:30 pm, Candy Stallings, executive director of San Bernardino Sexual Assault Services in California, received a call from the office’s security company saying that a motion detector in the office had activated an alarm and that police were on their way. Once Stallings arrived at the crime scene police told her that the crafty burglars had managed to enter via the roof and made off with a stash of computer hardware. When they took the computers, they caused $5,000 in damage. “It was pretty devastating,” she said. “… I thought that we’re never going to recover from this. … Every single computer we have is so vital to the work that we do.”

After police surveyed the scene and secured the area, Stallings went back home to try to sleep. A few hours later she received another call telling her there was more suspicious activity on the property. Stallings rushed back to her office to find something startling. The burglars had returned everything they had taken and even left an apology note tucked away in a laptop.

We had no idea what we were taking,” the note read. “Here’s your stuff back. We hope that you guys can continue to make a difference in people’s lives. God Bless.”

How do you explain their actions?

Candy Stalling said: “[They] had a change of heart. They had some compassion.”

Lt. Paul Williams, who had been a cop for more than 20 years, said: ”That’s some major guilt there or what?”

So, did they return the stolen goods from compassion and a change or heart, or out of some major guilt, or what?

Probably all of the above, but what’s important is that when the change happened, they acted on it by restoring the stolen loot, which is exactly what happened to a white-collared thief named Zacchaeus.

Last week we met Zacchaeus. He is a rich, powerful, Mafioso scumbag. He’s a chief tax collector— socially despised and permanently barred from temple worship. He is considered irredeemable. But Jesus, as usual, shocked the religious folks of his day, by announcing a divine dinner appointment… with Zacchaeus.



Luke 19:8 And Zacchaeus stood and said to the Lord, “Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor. And if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I restore it fourfold.”



“Conversion” refers to a noticeable change in direction of behavior, attitudes, and beliefs. When you do conversions to your kitchen you expect it to look different, and better.

The human problem is that we cannot change our sinful nature…

Jeremiah 13:23 Can the Ethiopian change his skin or the leopard his spots? Then also you can do good who are accustomed to do evil.

Our hearts are sin factories that need to be retooled to manufacture righteousness. This is exactly what happens at conversion.

2 Corinthians 5:17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.

It’s easy to say you’ve repented, but actions speak louder than words.

Have you undergone a noticeable change in your life?   You might say – “But I never murdered anyone or robbed a bank. So, what does conversion look like for me?”

Well, we all need to be willing to part with anything and everything. But for each of us, conversion will look different.


Luke 19:8And Zacchaeus stood and said to the Lord, “Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor. And if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I restore it fourfold.”

Zacchaeus got rich by extortion. He seized cash from people that he was not his. Just because the Romans made it legal, did not mean it stopped being sin.

So, what changed?

He met Jesus. And he decided to give back what he had stolen and more.

That’s a noticeable change in attitude to money. 

Does this mean I need to give away all my money when I get saved? Conversion looks different for everyone.  Some conversions are pretty dramatic, others are more subtle. You get Paul-type conversions. Paul was a murderous, anti-Christian, persecutor. And then he became the Apostle to the Gentile and martyr for the cause of Christ.

But many other conversions are less dramatic.

Maybe you were born in a Christian home and never really went off the rails. When you were nine or ten years old you heard a sermon about Hell that frightened you, and you repented of your sin. Well, it’s not like you were an axe-murderer or heroin addict. But your world stopped revolving around you and began to orientate toward Jesus. That is no less of a conversion than Paul’s. You went from being a sinner to a saint.

Some conversions are less noticeable than others, but if there is no change, there has not been a conversion. 


Luke 19:8-10 And Zacchaeus stood and said to the Lord, “Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor. And if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I restore it fourfold.”  And Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, since he also is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.”

Jesus sees the change in Zacchaeus and announces: Mission Accomplished!! I came to seek and save sinners, and today I did just that.

How can he be so sure? Because he’s God and can see the heart, but also because there are some visible effects. Tax collectors don’t give away money. They take money.

Zacchaeus has been converted from an enemy of God to a friend of God, from a sinner to a saint, from an unbeliever to a believer. He has been justified. There is a visible shift in priorities, a change in desire, a turnaround in actions – evidence that something has happened internally.

You may say you are saved, but if you are still behaving like an unbeliever you certainly don’t look saved.

Notice that Zacchaeus’ repentance and conversion are not because of the deeds. The deeds don’t cause salvation, they indicate that it has occurred. He hasn’t done anything yet and Jesus declares him saved. But his desires have changed.

Christians do not think, talk, and act like unbelievers for long. The change is inevitable.

We are complex creatures, but we are daily becoming more like Jesus, so the more mature you become the more your motive will be love to God, and your behavior will conform with his will for your life. That’s conversion.

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