This text is used for the Lectionary Year C on October 30th, 2016.
One of the most well-known stories of the New Testament, with accompanying soundtrack and all, is that of the rich tax collector, Zacchaeus. This makes the preacher’s task of finding something “new” much more difficult than at other times. Flipping or swiping back a few pages might offer some inspiration.
In chapter 18, immediately preceding the Gospel reading for this week, the reader will find two stories that further illustrate what Luke is offering the audience. The reference to a rich (young) ruler, who obeys all the commandments but can’t part with his wealth, presumably failing the first and greatest commandment. Compare this to the story of the Pharisee and the tax collector and the prayers they offer before God. Both are presumed to be wealthy, but only one is rich in spirit.
Swipe back a couple more pages to chapter 16, where we read of a rich man and his shrewd manager, followed by the important interpretive lens, “You cannot serve both God and money (mammon).” This transitions into another story some may have preached a few weeks earlier—that of the rich man and Lazarus on his front stoop.