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Why did Zacchaeus climb the sycamore tree?

I was speaking with a ministry leader last week in Kenya via skype. I’ll be honest with you, I was having an extremely busy week. I was up against a few deadlines. I was hoping the call wouldn’t last more than 30 minutes. God had other plans. Ninety minutes into the conversation I found myself taking notes and this sweet man of God was preaching a sermon to me. I was offering him free fundraising coaching, but in turn, I was the one who received the greater blessing! Have you ever had someone say something that caused you to wrestle with their words for several days? This was exactly what happened to me during our conversation. The ministry leader asked me the question: “Why did Zacchaeus climb the tree?” I said “to see Jesus.” He said “correct, but why did he have to get up high?” I said “because it was crowded.” He said “correct, but God gave me a revelation about this verse and there’s more.” I said “listening." He said “sometimes we have to go higher to see our Lord.” He began to tell me about the school he started for troubled youth who had been afflicted by poverty, gangs and drugs. He said “these youth have to go higher than their situation to see the Lord.” He said “and it’s the same with us.” I was speechless. I immediately began thinking of my own life, work and years of ministry leadership. I was reminded how many times my vision of Jesus was so dull because I was in the thick of things or I was out making things happen. It is so easy to allow our work, goals, success and even helping others in ministry cloud our view of Jesus. The world constantly invites us to jump on the hamster wheel. Keep striving. Keep winning. Good things come to those who hustle. That’s the message today for leaders. I don’t know about you, but I’ve certainly drank that Kool-Aid before.  Today, because of a few trials and a wonderful Spiritual Director, I see things a bit differently.  I see an invitation to "be" vs. "do" and "thrive" vs. "strive". I’m not at all against winning, hard work, dedication, goal setting, success, etc. etc. etc. BUT, when Jesus becomes hard to see and hard to hear as a result, it’s time to climb the sycamore tree. What could that sycamore tree be for you?

  • A silent or personal retreat

  • Extended time away through a sabbatical

  • Regular Sabbath rhythms incorporated into your week, not just Sunday

  • A coach or mentor to guide you on a healthier leadership path

  • Time to work on your ministry plan vs. just being in the trenches of the plan trying to survive

I don’t know that answer for you. I only know it for me. But...I am here if you need resources. Your friend in ministry, Emily 


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