The story of Zaccheus is known by every Sunday school child who has sung the chorus about the “wee little man” who climbed the sycamore tree to see Jesus pass by because he was too short to see over the taller people in the crowd around him. Those who don't recall the chorus can find the whole record in Luke's Gospel, 19:1–10. The Gospel says he was both rich and the chief among the publicans. Because of his short stature, he ran ahead of the parade accompanying Jesus' procession through Jericho, to climb the tree to get a good look at this much-talked-about preacher of the Kingdom. “And when Jesus came to the place, he looked up, and saw him, and said unto him, Zaccheus, make haste, and come down; for today I must abide at thy house.”
Zacchaeus seems to have been looking for approval from a religious figure, because Luke says he “made haste” to come down and joyfully received Jesus and took him to his home. Some were scandalized that, again, a publican was being treated as worthy of God's grace. But Zaccheus was so impressed and moved that he said “the half of my goods I give to the poor; and if I have taken anything from any man by false accusation, I restore him fourfold.”
And Jesus said unto him, “This day is salvation come to this house, for he also is a son of Abraham. For the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost.”
The women described earlier as supporters of Jesus' ministry are like Zaccheus in that they are all affluent disciples. According to Jesus, it is the love of riches, or making them an end in themselves, that gets in the way of sanctification.
Though, in another incident, Jesus called upon a rich young man to give all that he had to the poor in order to gain the Kingdom of God (Luke 18:18–23), he made no such demand on Zaccheus. Knowing the hearts of both men, Jesus understood that his wealth would be an impediment to the rich young man, but that Zaccheus had already become poor in spirit, meaning he was aware of the vacuity of his riches. In other words, Zaccheus understood that his wealth was meaningful only if used to make the lot of less fortunate better.