There is an epidemic of low self-esteem in America today.
Many are highly successful on the outside but inside there is a gnawing question of “Do I really matter?”
In our society we tend to judge our worth by our appearance, income, possessions or popularity.
The problem with these judgments is that none of them are stable.
Beauty fades, fashions change, incomes shrink and popularity wanes.
We are good at creating universal standards on temporary cultural fads.
Joseph Stowell, in his book “Fan the Flames”, writes, “It was absolutely amazing. I was in West Africa, and the missionaries were telling me that in that culture the larger the women, the more beautiful they were thought to be. In fact, a young missionary who had a small wife said that the nationals had told him she was a bad reflection on him– he obviously was not providing well enough for her. A proverb in that part of Africa says that if your wife is on a camel and the camel cannot stand up, your wife is truly beautiful.”
Low self-esteem leads to destructive addictions, crushing depression, compromising relationships and self-absorbed narcissism.
High self-esteem comes from building your identity on something that won’t change. And the one thing that does not change is what God thinks about you.
Zacchaeus was a chief tax collector who lived in Jericho and one day Jesus came visiting Zacchaeus’ home town.
If there was a man who had deep seeded low-self esteem, it would be this guy.
Zacchaeus had the trifecta of low self-esteem.
1) He was self-conscious about his short stature. He was so short that he climbed up in a tree to try to see Jesus when he was walking through his town.
2) He was unpopular, in fact, he was pretty much hated by everyone in Jericho because he was a chief tax collector meaning he would collect and keep as much taxes as he could get as long as he paid Rome its due. He was more like a mafia extortionist than a legal collector of taxes. His family had disowned him, he was not welcome in the local synagogue and he was viewed in a class of people worse than murderers.
3) He hated himself because when you have a guilty conscience, you can’t feel really good about yourself.
Here is a guy with a lot of money and an empty soul.
A lonely, miserable man, desperate for things to change.
And one day things did.
He had an encounter with Jesus and learned how much he mattered to God.
The story about Zacchaeus shows how God feels towards us:
FIRST, no matter how invisible you feel, JESUS SEES YOU.
Zacchaeus climbed up in a tree to see Jesus, but Jesus walks past thousands of people on the streets and walks right up to the tree, stops and looks directly at Zacchaeus.
Can you imagine what Zacchaeus is feeling when Jesus sees him?
He’s thinking, “Well, here it comes, judgment! I’m going to get what I deserve. The Son of God walked right over to me to tell me all the wrong things I’ve ever done and the punishment that I am going to receive.”
But Jesus didn’t judge him or condemn him.
Jesus walked over to Zacchaeus to let him know that he knew exactly where he was at.
God knows exactly where you are at today. He has not abandoned you. Even though he knows every thought you have had, every word you have uttered, every deed you have done, good or bad, he has constantly kept his eyes of love upon you.
The deepest expression of love is attention and God’s attention span for you is eternal.
Jesus not only NOTICES you…
SECONDLY, no matter what others think of you, JESUS VALIDATES YOU.
Zacchaeus’ life of crime and corruption had nullified any credibility of character and yet Jesus came with a completely different kind of opinion.
Jesus not only walked up to the tree and saw him, but he called Zacchaeus by name.
Zacchaeus must have been shocked that Jesus knew his name.
Jesus not only knows where you are but he knows who you are.
The crowd had to be shocked for two reasons. 1) That Jesus knew his name, and 2) What Zacchaeus’ name meant.
Zacchaeus means, “PURE ONE.”
The crowd must have thought Jesus was joking.
Zacchaeus was everything but pure.
Zacchaeus must have been shocked too. He probably had been called every dirty name in the book over the years but he probably hadn’t heard his real name for a long time. “Pure One” was a name he had given up many compromises ago.
In spite of Zacchaeus’ sin, Jesus validates him.
Jesus says, “Beneath the emotional hurt, shame and insecurities and amidst all the bad choices and the hardening of your soul, I see a pure one. Zacchaeus, I created you for purity. I didn’t create you to be a crook. You are the pure one.”
The Apostle Paul writes in Ephesians 2:10 “For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus so that we can do the good things He planned for us long ago.”
Masterpieces are not mass-produced.
When God made you, he broke the mold.
You are one in 7 ½ billion!
Maybe you have had some horrible things said to you growing up. “You’ll never amount to anything.” “Why can’t you be more like your brother/sister.” “I’m embarrassed to be around you.” “You will always be a slut.” “You’re fat.” “You’re dumb.” “You’re a failure.”
And those voices and phrases play over and over in your mind and they define you and paralyze you.
A defining moment in all of our lives is whether we choose to believe what other people say about us or what God says about us.
It will deeply affect our self-esteem and determine our destiny.
Jesus sees Zacchaeus and then validates his masterpiece by saying, “You are the pure one. I see all your potential no matter your failures, hurts and shame.”
Jesus not only NOTICES you and VALIDATES you…
THIRDLY, in spite of our past, JESUS WANTS A RELATIONSHIP WITH YOU.
Zacchaeus was lonely, insecure, bitter, resentful, full of guilt and shame and yet Jesus not only sees him and validates him but he goes one step further and invites himself to Zacchaeus’ home for dinner.
“Come down from that tree quickly, Zacchaeus, I am going to be a guest in your home today.”
This is an invitation to enter into a deep, intimate relationship.
This was scandalous and incomprehensible!
Jesus Christ, the Son of God, walked all the way through town, past thousands of onlookers, to find the biggest criminal in town to say, “I’m going to your house to be your guest. I see you, I validate you, I choose you!”
The crowd’s reaction was fairly predictable: “All the people saw this and they began to complain, ‘Jesus is staying with a sinner.’”
Zacchaeus may have been thinking the same thing too: “I’m not good enough! Jesus, you don’t know the things I have done.”
We have all felt that way, haven’t we?
The reality is that none of us are good enough, but gratefully, our relationship with God is not based on our goodness but on God’s compassionate love for us in spite of all we have done.
God spoke through the prophet Isaiah when he said, “I am the God who forgives your sins, and I do this because of Who I am. I will not hold your sins against you.”
Jesus said in John 3:17, “I was not sent here to condemn you, but to save you.”
That’s called grace.
Grace is when God gives you what you need not what you deserve.
Zacchaeus received undeserving, scandalous, mind-blowing grace.
How should we respond?
The way Zacchaeus did.
The Bible says, “So he came down at once and he received him with joy.”
He couldn’t get down fast enough
Zacchaeus took Jesus up on His offer for a relationship. And he began to change.
Luke 19:8-9 “Zacchaeus stood and he said to the Lord ‘I’ll give half of my possessions to the poor and if I’ve cheated anyone I’ll give them back four times the amount.’ Jesus responded, ‘Salvation has come to this home today.'”
Dr. Charles Cooley, the Dean of American Sociology once said, “Your self esteem and self worth is determined to a large degree by what you think the people or the person that matters most to you thinks about you.”
I encourage you to make Jesus Christ the most important person in your life. He SEES you, VALIDATES you as a masterpiece and wants to offer you grace and be in a RELATIONSHIP with you forever.