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Money talks

Zacchaeus [tax farmer for Jericho AD 33] stood and said to the Lord [Jesus of Nazareth], “Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor. And if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I restore it fourfold.” Luke 19: 8

Does money talk in Jersey these days? The two words “money talks” (or “money speaks all languages”) have been around for a very long time.

In its simplest form, money talks by opening doors which are closed to those without money. Advertisements for houses in the JEP speak of “exclusive developments”. Houses within such groups exclude those without money.

In a more searching way, money talks by actually increasing costs for those with money. An Aston Martin will cost more per hour to service than a Ford. Money will have spoken and its message will have been heard by suppliers. In more ways than one, in fact, because the reason for high grocery prices in Jersey is because money has spoken and said “I’m here” whereupon traders have said, “OK, noted, thanks.” (Of course, Amazon also speaks....)

Money talks in a third, even deeper way. See bold above. Isn’t this really telling? Zacchaeus. A rich man. The chief tax collector for Jericho, a town where was a distribution hub for valuable, dutiable goods. A tax farmer who ensured that his Roman superiors received the money which they specified was due to Rome from the district of Jericho in Israel. A tax farmer who, obviously, collected (through his subordinates) more tax than Rome demanded so as to ensure that he was OK. “After all, I have to live.”
‘When money speaks, the truth is silent.’ (Anon.)

If money talks what is it saying with regard to Zacchaeus? There’s a before statement and an after statement.

Before the specific event in bold above when Zacchaeus “stood and said” the recorded words to Jesus, before that, Zacchaeus was noted in Dr Luke’s biography of Jesus as being “rich”.

Before, therefore, he had no concern for the poor but instead he accumulated money for himself. Indeed the word for ”defrauded” spoken by Zacchaeus is the verb sykophanteo. A syko is a fig. Something phanteo is a phantom, non-existent. It seems likely that Zacchaeus was being brutally honest about himself when he used that strange verb. The word originated with Aristophanes, the playwright of Ancient Greece (400 BC), in one of his plays where a person falsely accused another of exporting figs. Did Zacchaeus use it to indicate that he had falsely valued glass marbles passing through Jericho as being diamonds?

Before, money had talked to Zacchaeus and he had listened and followed – totally.

After, money talked in a new, almost incredible, way regarding Zacchaeus. Do you know of anyone else who has given away to the poor half of everything he possesses? You do? In that case, will you do the same? Now?

After, money talked to Zacchaeus about the needs of the poor and how he could bless them through money. 

After, money talked to Zacchaeus that it could be used to restore what had been taken away, to recompense folk who had suffered, to put wrongs to right, to acknowledge sinful conduct and seek forgiveness – fourfold. He restored fourfold.
‘Money will buy a pretty good dog, but it won’t buy the wag of its tail.’ (Josh Billings, American humorist, 1818-1885)

What was it that brought about this change in what money said to Zacchaeus?

The answer is both simple and profound. He met a man named Jesus.

Zacchaeus, according to Jesus’ biographer, was deeply concerned to perceive and understand this man, Jesus Christ. His interest was not the same as those in Jersey who recently went to see Prince Edward in the Royal Square. They went to look. Zacchaeus went to evaluate, perceive, know and understand Jesus.

But, like most men who bear the surname Syvret, he was height-challenged. He had to climb a tree in order to attempt a full evaluation. When Jesus passed by under that very tree he stopped and told Zacchaeus to come down because he wanted to abide with him that very day.

I can’t climb a tree to see Jesus today but I can read Dr Luke’s biography. Maybe, if I do, I’ll perceive Jesus – and my money will sing a new song.
Richard Syvret

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