The main scripture reading for the service will be Luke 19:1- 27, two stories about Jesus. The first story is the familiar story of Zacchaeus, the chief tax collector in Jericho. The second is a story Jesus told to the crowd and his disciples at the home of Zacchaeus about a nobleman left to receive a kingdom. Before he left, he gave ten of his servants a moderate amount of money to use for trade until his return. Some servants traded very well and made good profits; one servant was too cautious to trade for fear of losing what he was given, so he buried the money, and was severely reprimanded on the nobleman’s return.
Money, and our relationships with it, significantly affect our lives. Zacchaeus would have been a wealthy man before he bought the position of chief tax collector, and would have been doubly hated by his neighbours, first for being wealthier than them, and secondly for serving the interests of their oppressors, the Romans. What he did with his money was of little concern for them: what mattered was how much he had and how he got some of it. Jesus, by choosing to have a meal with him, rebuked the attitude of his neighbours. This rebuke was reinforced by the story he told, a story which challenges us today.
I heard yesterday that the enemy of happiness is comparison, and these two stories play on that theme, inviting us to consider how we relate to money: our money and the wealth of others. The setting of the story in Jericho, the city where Joshua whose name was the same as that of Jesus in Aramaic, could also be used as symbolic for exploring other themes.
May our relationships with money be life supporting rather than life crippling.