Not Many Wise

Values example: ‘bad’ Zacchaeus lesson plan

A pile of gold coins. Values example: 'bad' Zacchaeus lesson plan.
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This teachers copy of the Values example: ‘bad’ Zacchaeus lesson plan is printer friendly.


No extra resources are required.

Optional: Internet to look up charities, but unfortunately there are many charities that pay their executives extremely high salaries, see:
[1] What Charity Should I Donate To? opens in a new tab.

For the better side of charities see the lower half of this article:
[2] What Charities Can I Donate To? opens in a new tab.


Imagine you know someone who has got a reputation for not respecting other people’s things.
Then one day this person asks to borrow your ruler and it quickly gets given back to you in several bits, with a hurried ‘sorry’.
Then on another day, they ask to borrow your …………….. (something expensive).

Q. Are you going to lend it to that person?


They need to show by their actions that they have changed from their old bad ways. To say ‘sorry’ is not enough.


We are going to look at ‘bad’ Zacchaeus when he met Jesus, a story from the Bible.
He wasn’t one to just go with the crowd – he didn’t want to be popular and fit in with everybody.
He was out and out for himself and if anybody gave him some abuse, it was just like water off a ducks back – it didn’t bother him.

Earlier on in his life, he had decided to become a tax collector working for the Romans, who had invaded his country.
Zacchaeus thought that rather than work against the Romans he would make the best of the situation for himself, and he had become extremely rich!
His fellow Jews despised him for collecting taxes from them, and he was so good at it, he had risen up through the ranks and was now a ‘chief tax collector’.

Most, if not all of the tax collectors then, used to charge higher taxes than they should have done and they then ‘pocketed’ the rest.

But something was happening within Zacchaeus.
God was starting to make him feel uneasy about the way he was living his life.
Although he was very rich, he began to feel guilty for the wrong things he had done, and now Jesus was coming into his home town.
Zacchaeus had heard a lot of things about Him, how Jesus was going around healing people and teaching things about the Kingdom of God.
Zacchaeus felt that Jesus would have the answer and he just wanted to speak to Him, but the crowds were massive.

He was very short so he couldn’t even see Jesus, so he ran on ahead and climbed a tree which hung over the road.
Zacchaeus thought that he wouldn’t be able to speak to Jesus because of the huge crowd, but he just wanted to see what Jesus looked like, that was better than nothing.
Jesus came into view, with the crowd pressing around Him, and just as if it looked as if He was going to pass directly under the tree and disappear in the crowd, Jesus stopped and looked up!
Zacchaeus’ heart almost banged its way out of his chest! But that was not all.
Jesus said “Zacchaeus!”
But how could that be, Jesus hadn’t met Zacchaeus before.
It was God at work!
Jesus said: “Zacchaeus, come down immediately, I must stay at your house today”!
This really confirmed to Zacchaeus that Jesus was the answer to the way he was feeling!
The people in the crowd who knew Zacchaeus as a tax collector started to grumble that Jesus – who lived a life without doing anything wrong – wanted to go with a tax collector – the lowest of the low!
The moaning carried on all the way to his house, but then Zacchaeus turned to Jesus and said in response to their grumbling:

Look, Lord! Here and now I give half of my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount.”

Luke 19:8 NIV

The crowd could see by his actions that Zacchaeus was truly sorry for the wrong things he had done.
And Jesus said to him that salvation had come to his house and that Zacchaeus was now a true believer in God.
He also said that this was the reason why He, Jesus, had come, to seek out those who were lost.

Q. How could Jesus say so positively that Zacchaeus was now a true believer in God?

Because being a Christian means not just talking about it, but actually living a changed good lifestyle.
Zacchaeus was proving by his actions that he was truly sorry for getting all that money wrongly from other people.
Just saying sorry was not enough.

Jesus said that He came to seek out those who were lost.

Q. What does being lost mean here?

Being lost means being outside of God’s family and away from God’s company.
Jesus came to point people in the right direction towards God.
Christians believe that Jesus, being God, was able to know exactly what Zacchaeus was feeling, so that is why Jesus chose to speak to Zacchaeus amongst all those hundreds of people.
Jesus was seeking him out by walking along that road.

Q. What made Zacchaeus lost?

He had been more interested in getting rich, than in finding out about God.
Up until Jesus saw him, Zacchaeus had put himself first and God last.

Q. Is it possible to be rich and to be a Christian?

Yes, provided the riches don’t become more important than God.
It may be that God wants you to give a lot of it away to a charity, so what becomes more important, to obey God or hold onto the money?

When money becomes the most important thing to you, then that money becomes your god, something you idolize in your life.
Jesus said on another occasion:

For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

Luke 12:34 NIV

Q. What does it mean, that your heart will be where your treasure is?

Treasure is symbolic of what is most important to you, and the heart is symbolic of your love.

Q. What is your treasure?

Everyone draw a treasure chest and then draw what your treasure is, what your goal in life is, coming out of the treasure chest, or next to it.
It could be riches, getting married, having the latest smartphone, a boyfriend or girlfriend, a big house, a sports car, etc.
So whatever your treasure is, your heart will be set upon it, so draw a heart shape next to it or enclose your drawing.

Now because your heart is set upon this ‘treasure’ your affections are set towards it and you are in love with it.
Remember what Jesus said: “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”
So if you make getting married your treasure, then your heart will be set upon this, and because this becomes so big in your life then other things get pushed out, and that includes God.
But if you make God your treasure then your heart will be set on God and therefore you will love God above all other things.

Or perhaps you make money your treasure, then your heart will be set upon your money and getting more money, so you will be in love with riches and possessions.
But the trap of idolizing money is not just for the rich.
You could be the poorest person in the world and your thoughts of money could be the most important thing to you.
So even though you own no money, riches could still govern your thoughts and actions.

Q. Do you want to get rich and why?


Q. Have you thought about giving money to help someone or give to a charity?

Perhaps you think that you can give so little, it won’t help all the millions of suffering people in the world, but a little act goes a long way:
Here is a story that may make you think again:

There was a little boy walking along with his granddad, then they saw hundreds of starfish stranded on the beach and all of them were drying out in the blazing sun.
So the little boy started to pick them up, one at a time, and he walked to the water’s edge and put the starfish back into the sea.
Then he went back for another one.
His granddad looked at all the hundreds of starfish and said to the boy: “Come on, you’re never going to make a difference to all those starfish!”
But the boy replied: “No, but I can make a difference to this one”, as he lowered another starfish into the sea!

Q. Is it correct to say: ‘I can do nothing, there are so many people who are suffering’?


Christians believe that God knows how much, or how little, we help others.

One day Jesus was in the Temple and all the rich people were giving their money away.
They were talking loudly and making a big show of donating their money.
They even threw their money in, so that it would make as much noise as possible!
But then Jesus noticed a very poor, little old lady, and He told the group who were with Him, to watch what she was going to do.
As she got next to the place where all the money was being donated, she quietly gave two small copper coins, which were worth only a few pence.
Jesus suddenly announced to His group:

I tell you the truth, this poor widow has put in more than all the others. All these people gave their gifts out of their wealth; but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on.”

Luke 21:4 NIV

Q. What did Jesus mean by that?

The money that the rich people were giving was worth very little to them.
They wouldn’t even miss that amount.
And because they had bragged about giving their money, then God would not reward their giving.
But the poor lady who had so little money gave a large amount of what she had.
It cost her to give that much and God would reward her for giving that.
Jesus explained what that reward might be if it is given in the faith that God will use it:

For if you give, you will get!
Your gift will return to you in full and overflowing measure,
pressed down, shaken together to make room for more, and running over.
Whatever measure you use to give – large or small –
will be used to measure what is given back to you.”

Luke 6:38 (The Living Bible)

Q. What would happen if you gave something so that you could receive it back again?

If the motive was to get something back, then that is doing something very similar to those people who loudly gave their money away, so that others would praise them for their generosity.
But the Bible tells us that if you give money or gifts to others in a genuine way to help them, then you can rely on God to reward you at a time when you need it.


We have just looked at several situations from the Bible which, hopefully, have made you think about some important issues.

Q. Have you read any books that have made you think about important subjects?

Q. Would you consider giving something to help someone, or give money to a charity?

Either take a short time to discuss these questions, or leave it with them.
Teachers note: There are two worksheets to accompany this lesson plan:
Values example: ‘bad’ Zacchaeus worksheet 1
Values example: ‘bad’ Zacchaeus worksheet 2

See also: Lifestyle and moral principles. RE resources