Yesterday, with reduced numbers because of the snow, we looked at the 8th Commandment - 'You shall not steal'. The reasons for not stealing are fairly obvious: to steal is dishonest, to steal spoils society by creating suspicion and fear, to steal robs us of better things - for example not paying taxes robs society of basic services, and to steal devalues honest work - "Why work if I can steal it?"
The story of Zacchaeus in Luke's Gospel shows how a life of cheating and stealing can be transformed. What made an impact on me as I prepared to speak on such a familiary story what the meaning of his name: 'Zacchaeus' is from the Hebrew meaning 'Pure'. I imagined Zacchaeus' parents choosing a name for him before he was born. There was a belief that a child's name would describe his character when he grew up; so what happened to Zacchaeus to make him so corrupt? Somewhere he broke the 10th Commandment - he began to covet, then the 8th - he began to steal by taking more in tax than was legal. But the good news is that when he encountered Jesus his life was transformed.
The people muttered that Jesus was going to eat in the house of a 'sinner'. But Zacchaeus wasn't just a sinner. Somewhere between being up the tree and coming down he became a sinner who was forgiven and saved, and his life was changed. And there is no more real change than paying back four times what you have stolen.
'You shall not steal': it's not just about burglary, but deception and fraud, office theft in the form of taking a 'sicky', tax evasion, robbing the future generation of natural resources by our profligate use of them now, robbing the poor of a fair price and wage for the goods we buy so cheaply. We might alol be complicit in these practices, just as Zacchaeus was in his day, but we can change just as he did.