Saturday, February 8, 2014

Are You Lost?

You don't have to go far to not know where you are.

Luke 19:10

New International Version (NIV)
10 For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.”

What does it mean to be "lost"? Have you ever been lost before?

I have. When I was about 4 years old.
Back in those days I was a tricycle man. I triked it all over the place.
We lived at the corner of Second St and Smiley Rd in Shelby when I was 4 years old.
I had a nice stretch of sidewalk to cover around that corner in two directions.
But, I was not supposed to go any further than where our property ended.
I had our driveway to the east (on Smiley), down to the corner and around to our neighbor's driveway on the north (on Second St). And, as it is with little ones, especially, I did not or was not listening, or thinking, about what I was doing as I turned that corner and headed towards the neighbor's driveway.

Being so long ago, I'm not sure what I was thinking or doing exactly. I seem to remember humming a tune (which is still like me after all these years). And, I guess I made it to my neighbor's driveway and I just...kept on going. Without really thinking about it I simply went uphill on the sidewalk and began to roll down Second St going north without a care in the world. Before long I actually looked up and around at all the houses and realized that I did not recognize any of them. Unbeknownst to me, I was still on Second St. I was 4 and I had never ventured away from home before. Now, I was scared.

Our passage of scripture can be a scary one.
Unless interpreted properly, scripture can be used in an improper way.
This line of scripture has been ripped from the passage it is included in and been caused to stand alone. Many people don't even realize what's included behind this verse. The Son of Man came to seek and save the lost. Seems like universal truth. But what else is going on in the 19th chapter of Luke that leads to this famous line from Jesus?

Upon backtracking behind verse 10, we see that this is the story of Zacchaeus.
Was Zacchaeus lost? Well, lets look at this passage and find out.

Luke 19

New International Version (NIV)

Zacchaeus the Tax Collector

19 Jesus entered Jericho and was passing through. A man was there by the name of Zacchaeus; he was a chief tax collector and was wealthy. He wanted to see who Jesus was, but because he was short he could not see over the crowd. So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore-fig tree to see him, since Jesus was coming that way.
When Jesus reached the spot, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I must stay at your house today.” So he came down at once and welcomed him gladly.
All the people saw this and began to mutter, “He has gone to be the guest of a sinner.”
But Zacchaeus stood up and said to the Lord, “Look, Lord! Here and now I give half of my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount.”
Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because this man, too, is a son of Abraham. 10 For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.”

As children we were introduced to the little, short guy who couldn't see Jesus. So, he climbed a tree.

But, I don't ever recall having the idea of being 'lost' ever coming into play as a Sunday school teacher taught the story to us. This statement that Jesus makes seems, at first, like an out-of-place sentence or a whimsical, off the top comment being made as the passage closes.

It is in understanding a bit more of the background of who this little man was that opens our eyes.

Our scripture says that Zacchaeus was a "chief tax collector" and he was "wealthy".
What do either of those phrases have to do with being "lost"?
Well I harken you back to last week's passage to make some correlation.
What was it that Jesus said about the Laodiceans?
He said they they thought they were "rich".

17 You say, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.’
Can the 'rich' feel like they are lost? They most certainly can.

Well, lets take a closer look at both words, rich & lost, before we answer that.
What does it mean to be rich?

Full Definition of RICH

1:  having abundant possessions and especially material wealth
2 a :  having high value or quality
   b :  well supplied or endowed <a city rich in traditions>
3:  magnificently impressive :  sumptuous
4 a :  vivid and deep in color <a rich red>
   b :  full and mellow in tone and quality <a rich voice>
   c :  having a strong fragrance <rich perfumes>
5:  highly productive or remunerative <a rich mine>
6 a :  having abundant plant nutrients <rich soil>
   b :  highly seasoned, fatty, oily, or sweet <rich foods>
   c :  high in the combustible component <a rich fuel mixture>
   d :  high in some component <cholesterol-rich foods>
7 a :  entertaining; also :  laughable
   b :  meaningful, significant <rich allusions>
   c :  lush <rich meadows>
8:  pure or nearly pure <rich lime>

Our scripture suggests that Zacchaeus was "wealthy". Jesus said the Laodiceans were "rich".
There's nothing in the definition of rich that leads me in the direction of being lost, however.
Maybe there's something unspoken here that we are missing. Maybe we need to hear it right from "the horse's mouth", in a manner of speaking. What is it like to be rich and where does it lead?

Upon searching the subject of being rich at Google, there was one word that gets associated with the subject - lonely. Lottery winners have noted that upon winning their millions the one thing that changed drastically was their social life. Money changes things. In all social criteria. People feel differently about socializing with someone who seems to have it all. Having more than the neighbor across the street can cause a social divide. Even if it's not millions in dollars and cents, having more than someone else in your neighborhood or demographic can cause there to be a bit of animosity. In the family, in the neighborhood, in the social climate.

The best place to go for that insight is go to someone who has nothing. 
Just ask the kids down in Hindman, Kentucky.

My in-laws went there for a mission trip a couple years back. My mother-in-law will tell you right away that what stands out is the stark contrast in the social & economic divide between life in Fairfield County, OH and the backwoods of Hindman, KY. Many of the kids have nothing. Upon sitting down with them to do VBS during the week, one of the little girls called my mother-in-law "rich". Looking at her shoes and the shirt she was wearing, the little girl immediately realized her teacher from Ohio had life a little better than she did. Now, my in-laws are no "rich folks". There are hard working, blue collar people, just like anybody else around here. But, take what you have and put it up against the backwoods life of a small child growing up in Kentucky with barely the essentials to make it in this world, and you'll feel like you might be "rich".

Is it possible to get "lost" being "rich"? We established that being "rich" doesn't have to mean that you have millions. It just means that you have to have more than somebody else. You have enough the fold your hands behind your head and feel like you have it made. You have all you need. Jesus called the Laodiceans "rich" and claimed they thought that they needed nothing. Its funny how people become content in their own little world. Its funny how people look down on other because other of their social and economic status, either poor or rich. The "rich" folk want nothing to do with those "poor people" because they smell or don't dress very well. And, the rich get alienated because they have too much or dress too well and common people can't relate to them.

Now, before we venture much further you might be wondering what any of this has to do with being lost. And, then it dawns on you....we are lost. THIS is how people get lost. Focusing too much on themselves or their own economic and social status or the economic and social status of others. THIS is not where God intended for us to live, alienated from one another. Being lost implies that we are on our own, with no guide to show us the way. For the sake of discussion lets look at the word...

Full Definition of LOST

1:  not made use of, won, or claimed
2 a :  no longer possessed
   b :  no longer known
3:  ruined or destroyed physically or morally :  desperate
4 a :  taken away or beyond reach or attainment :  denied <regions lost to the faith>
   b :  insensible, hardened <lost to shame>
5 a :  unable to find the way
   b :  no longer visible
   c :  lacking assurance or self-confidence :  helpless
6:  rapt, absorbed <lost in reverie>
7:  not appreciated or understood :  wasted <their jokes were lost on me>
8:  obscured or overlooked during a process or activity <lost in translation>
9:  hopelessly unattainable :  futile <a lost cause>

Hmmmmm. How was Zacchaeus lost?
Well, the mere mention of his trade or profession should tell us lots about what people thought of him. He was a "tax collector". In fact, the "chief". In a culture being run by Roman rule, this man had been chosen by his Roman overlords to be the one who had to go throughout the land taking the hard earned money from the common man. He became wealthy. Zacchaeus was compensated well for his work. I think of Zacchaeus as a biblical 24 hr loan shark. Nobody likes these check cashing places where you can get an "instant loan" and end of scarring your credit history for life because you can't pay it back. And, yet, people go there any way. Writing a check they can't cash to get a loan they can't pay back. Here comes Zacchaeus asking for money that people don't have to pay off taxes they can't afford. That's the kind of reputation I see Zacchaeus earning for himself. He has to go out and collect the money from people who probably can't pay it in the first place. This is how he became wealthy. Taking from those who don't have it. He has gotten lost in his wealth, in his social status. In doing so, he has lost a bit of his humanity, looking down over his nose at the poor in his society.

What is it about Jesus that wakes a person up to who they are and what they have become?
Why in the world would a person like Zacchaeus want to see Jesus any way? He has everything he needs. And, yet...maybe he realizes that there is something he does not have. Peace. For all the money he has collected, for all the social status he has achieved, there's one thing Zacchaeus still does not have. And, the one person who is rumored to be able to give it, to make things right in a human being's life, is walking through town at this very moment. And, this "little man" is so short Jesus isn't going to be able to see him. So, Zacchaeus has to make sure Jesus is able to see him. Or, at least, Zacchaeus, himself, can get a glimpse of this Jesus character.

Sometimes, human beings don't always do what they're told, or, do the right thing. Zacchaeus hasn't listened or done the right thing in God's eyes for a long time. But, now is his chance to make things right. And he takes full advantage of the situation. Jesus calls him down from the tree. Zacchaeus invites Jesus home for dinner. Jesus accepts. And, the social world erupts with a groan and complaint.
All the people saw this and began to mutter, “He has gone to be the guest of a sinner.”Not, just the Pharisees and religious leaders, whom we have become accustomed to hearing the complaints from..."All the people". Step beyond the rich and poor issue for a moment and realize that there are people who just don't like the man. For whatever reason. He's a "sinner". And, this 'holy man' Jesus is going to go eat with him. 
Maybe it's not just the "rich" who are lost. Maybe when we begin to look down over our nose at other people because they don't live up to our standards, because there's just 'something' about them we don't like, because they don't do or say what we want them to do or say...maybe we have lost something of who God wants us to be. We didn't listen to the cries of humanity. We didn't respond to the Love that God has shown. We have gotten lost in ourselves and in our own wants and cares. 

We're looking for peace. And, peace just happens to strolling through town today.

I found my way back home on my trike that day.
But, not before I stopped in front of a small red house as I cried my head off.
I didn't know where I was or how I had gotten there. This old lady came out the front door and saw me sitting there on my trike crying. I explained to her, through my tears, that I was lost and I didn't know how to get home. She did her best to calm me down. I think I got a treat from her and I met her dog. I cried some more as I didn't know where I was or how to get home. And, then she asked me, "Which way did you come from?" I thought about it for a second and then I pointed back down the street. "Well, why don't you just start riding that way and see where it goes?", she suggested.

And, so I did. Pretty soon my neighbor's house was in view and there was my house on the corner. I could see it as I crested the hill coming up the sidewalk. I knew how to get home. I just needed to go back the way I came. Zacchaeus knew the way too. While eating with Jesus, he exclaims "I'm going to give back to everybody 4 times what I took from them!" Righting the wrong. Patching things up. Returning what is rightfully someone else's. Speaking words of kindness in a harsh situation. In a world looking for hope and gladness, Jesus comes walking through and if we could just get his attention...we might find some peace to calm our souls.

He's here today. He came to meet with us. Are you lost? Have you been looking for something and you're not sure where to find it? Have you been praying, asking for peace and direction? Is there something that you feel needs to happen to bring that peace about in your life? A conversation with a person. A wrong situation made right. Do you need to talk to Jesus? Just get his attention and let him hear you out?

He's here. He wants to sup with you. Meet with you. Come down from the tree. It's time to go home.

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