I think we could benefit from a discussion of the moment in the Gospel of Luke when Zacchaeus meets the Lord. The Pope recently used this pericope when addressing the UN delegation. It made me scratch my head. The Pope was advocating “legitimate redistribution of economic benefits by the State”.
Of course you know that Zacchaeus was a publican, a tax collector, a representative of the State, the Romans.
As I read Luke, the lesson to be learned from the Zacchaeus encounter is that if even a Roman collaborator tax collector can convert and receive the kind words of the Lord, then anyone can be saved. What I find puzzling is how this episode can bolster an argument for State redistribution of wealth.
In any event, Luke 19:1-10 has Zacchaeus telling the Lord, using Greek present tense verbs (Latin Vulgate also has present tense), about his giving to the poor and his restoration of money to those whom he cheated.
Authors are divided about whether Zacchaeus was already giving half his wealth to the poor before the Lord came along or whether he made the decision in the Lord’s presence to give to the poor in the future.
On the one hand, the language is fairly clear. But the context suggests that Zacchaeus is making an on the spot decision.
The Greek of the dialogue in Luke 19 says in 19:8:
σταθεὶς δὲ Ζακχαῖος εἶπεν πρὸς τὸν κύριον Ἰδού, τὰ ἡμίση τῶν ὑπαρχόντων μου κύριε δίδωμι τοῖς πτωχοῖς καὶ εἴ τινός τι ἐσυκοφάντησα ἀποδίδωμι τετραπλοῦν
The verbs δίδωμι and ἀποδίδωμι are both “present”, though Greek present doesn’t necessarily mean that the action is exactly contemporaneous.
1 He entered Jericho and was passing through. 2 And there was a man named Zacchae’us; he was a chief tax collector, and rich. 3 And he sought to see who Jesus was, but could not, on account of the crowd, because he was small of stature. 4 So he ran on ahead and climbed up into a sycamore tree to see him, for he was to pass that way. 5 And when Jesus came to the place, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchae’us, make haste and come down; for I must stay at your house today.” 6 So he made haste and came down, and received him joyfully. 7 And when they saw it they all murmured, “He has gone in to be the guest of a man who is a sinner.” 8 And Zacchae’us stood and said to the Lord, “Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor; and if I have defrauded any one of anything, I restore it fourfold.” 9 And Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, since he also is a son of Abraham. 10 For the Son of man came to seek and to save the lost.”
1 And entering he walked through Jericho. 2 And behold, there was a man named Zacheus, who was the chief of the publicans: and he was rich. 3 And he sought to see Jesus who he was: and he could not for the crowd, because he was low of stature. 4 And running before, he climbed up into a sycamore tree, that he might see him: for he was to pass that way. 5 And when Jesus was come to the place, looking up, he saw him and said to him: Zacheus, make haste and come down: for this day I must abide in thy house. 6 And he made haste and came down and received him with joy. 7 And when all saw it, they murmured, saying, that he was gone to be a guest with a man that was a sinner. 8 But Zacheus standing, said to the Lord: Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor; and if I have wronged any man of any thing, I restore him fourfold. 9 Jesus said to him: This day is salvation come to this house, because he also is a son of Abraham. 10 For the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost.
1 et ingressus perambulabat Hiericho 2 et ecce vir nomine Zaccheus et hic erat princeps publicanorum et ipse dives 3 et quaerebat videre Iesum quis esset et non poterat prae turba quia statura pusillus erat 4 et praecurrens ascendit in arborem sycomorum ut videret illum quia inde erat transiturus 5 et cum venisset ad locum suspiciens Iesus vidit illum et dixit ad eum Zacchee festinans descende quia hodie in domo tua oportet me manere 6 et festinans descendit et excepit illum gaudens 7 et cum viderent omnes murmurabant dicentes quod ad hominem peccatorem devertisset 8 stans autem Zaccheus dixit ad Dominum ecce dimidium bonorum meorum Domine do pauperibus et si quid aliquem defraudavi reddo quadruplum 9 ait Iesus ad eum quia hodie salus domui huic facta est eo quod et ipse filius sit Abrahae 10 venit enim Filius hominis quaerere et salvum facere quod perierat
Again, the tricky part here is to determine what the Greek “present” is doing.
Once again, many commentators think that Zacchaeus already was giving to the poor and restoring to those who were defrauded.
Perhaps we can have some intelligent investigation.