Jesus said, “I have come that you may have life—and have it abundantly.” As Christians living in this land of abundance, we have been tempted to envision the abundant life that Jesus promised us as a life of more—more money, more things, more power, more fun, more adventure, more, more, more. We have had a difficult struggle altering this perspective of the abundant life even when we have seen the empty, purposeless lives of many of the rich and famous.
Slowly the idea of “balance” is beginning to replace the focus on “more” as a key element in the abundant life. Today we seek balance in our relationships; balance between family, friends, and work, balance between self and others, and between getting and giving. Our job—what we do for a living—is an important part of our lives. If we are going to live balanced and abundant lives, then it is necessary for us to achieve and maintain balance in our jobs and professions. This is not an easy task. Often the words of that country music ode to the workingman in the 80's “Take This Job and Shove It,” are in the back of our mind and the tip of our tongue. Thankfully, there are better alternatives for achieving balance in our work than simply to shove our jobs.
Those of us who grew up attending Sunday School can remember frequently hearing the story of Zacchaeus—the little man who climbed a tree to see Jesus. A few of us may have even learned a song about Zacchaeus. Zacchaeus is a frequent sermon subject, so even if we skipped the Sunday School experience, his story is probably not new to us.
Zacchaeus’ short stature is not the most notable element in this story. Zacchaeus was a chief tax collector. He was a rich and powerful man. He lived a lifestyle that many people admired, and of which they were envious. Though on the surface Zacchaeus appeared to have it “made,” he obviously sensed that something was missing in his life. Driven by his emptiness—his lack of balance—he pushed his way through the crowd and climbed a tree (certainly something very degrading for a man of his position) in order to see Jesus.
Zacchaeus isn’t the only one dissatisfied with his job. Surveys indicate that more and more people are becoming dissatisfied with what they are doing. In 1995, 58% stated that they were satisfied. Today, somewhat less than 50% experience any level of satisfaction. Over half the people in North America are merely enduring their jobs. How sad!
Perhaps the movement of the Holy Spirit in our lives may be the cause our job dissatisfaction. God’s Spirit makes us uncomfortable so that he can move us from point A to point B. If it isn’t the Holy Spirit, then the dissatisfaction that we feel may be cause by imbalance in our work. Changing jobs will not eliminate the imbalance and discomfort. Deeper changes need to be made.
If the truth were known, Zacchaeus was a self-centered man. He sought riches and power for himself. He thought that the purpose in life was to accumulate as much as possible and enjoy the greatest comfort and pleasure imaginable. Zacchaeus was willing to pay a high price to achieve his personal goals. He had to become a servant of the state; to betray his people and pledge his allegiance to Rome. Zacchaeus had to become comfortable accumulating his wealth from the poverty of others. Family and friends fell by the wayside, and Zacchaeus became a lonely man.
We understand the temptation that Zacchaeus fell in to. We know how easy it is to see our job only as a way to make ends meet—provide us enough money for food, clothing, and some fun on the weekend. Some of us view our jobs as simply a means to an end. We’re intent on climbing the ladder so that we can have the money, power, and recognition that we crave—and our present position is a way to climb that ladder.
Zacchaeus’ life and job were transformed when he encountered Jesus. Jesus saw Zacchaeus sitting in the tree and called to him to come down and prepare a meal for him. Zacchaeus was overwhelmed by Jesus’ love and acceptance. He suddenly realized not only the full extent of the emptiness of his life, but also how wrong his personal goals were. He changed in an instant. Just like that! During the meal, Zacchaeus got up and announced that he would give half of his wealth to the poor and make restitution to anyone whom he had cheated. Zacchaeus discovered one of the central principles of achieving and maintaining balance in his work. He altered the focus of his work from himself to others. He understood that he could use his time and talents to serve others and impact their lives. He turned the tables becoming a giver rather than a taker, and a server rather than one who is served. The change that occurred in Zacchaeus’ life was so notable that it made the pages of the Bible!
As far as we know, Zacchaeus did not change jobs. He continued to be a chief tax collector, but he went about his job differently and with an altered purpose. Zacchaeus understood that he didn’t have to change what he did, but rather he could “bloom where he was planted.” An essential understanding of God’s movement in our lives is that God has given us the gifts and talents that we have, placed us in the situation that we are in, at this specific time, for a unique ministry. God calls each and every one of us to a ministry that only we can fulfill. Each and every one of us is vital to proclaiming the gospel of Jesus Christ and expanding the Kingdom of God.
Thanks be to God! Amen.