A government worker abused his power, extorting money and growing rich on the backs of his already beleaguered constituency. He was roundly hated, but after a local disturbance involving a celebrity known for his compassion, he paid back all those he had cheated four times over and also gave half his money to the poor.
A woman married a successful businessman. She indulged herself in luxuries and traveled extensively. Little did she think that one day, after meeting a traveling Jewish teacher, she would she be using her husband’s money—with his permission—to support this teacher and his other students, funding their works of mercy as they went.
An heir to his father’s wealth, a man who had never worked a day in his life, became a socially prominent figure. Yet one day he saw hanging from a cross the bloodied corpse of a traveling Jewish teacher whom he had secretly followed. He knew that he must—he wanted to—give up his expensive burial plot to bury this man’s body. He boldly went to the Governor to ask permission, risking everything.
Zaccheus, Joanna, Joseph of Arimathea, their back-stories somewhat fictionalized but not their transformations, are distinguished in Scripture for their generosity. In fact, most of what we know about them is that when they met Jesus, they gave sacrificially.
Most of us are not asked to sacrifice our lives for our faith. But our reputations, our money, our time? It happens every day, yet it seems so hard to act faithfully, let alone sacrificially. Where can we get the power to act like Zaccheus, Joanna, and even Joseph of Arimathea, giving away the tomb where he himself was to be buried? Where can we find the joy in giving like the hymn writer who sang,
See, from his head, his hands, his feet,
sorrow and love flow mingled down.
Did e’er such love and sorrow meet,
or thorns compose so rich a crown.
Were the whole realm of nature mine,
that were an offering far too small;
love so amazing, so divine,
demands my soul, my life, my all.
Joseph saw what we are asked to see: Christ crucified, and his blood, which flowed both because of Jesus’ sorrow at our sin and his love in spite of it. So Joseph ‘boldly’ risked his reputation and social position, and he also gave away something of great material value. Seeing the sorrow and love of Jesus gives us the power to find a gift to give that is greater than if we owned ‘the whole realm of nature.’