Dear President Biden, Vice President Harris, and Members of the 117th Congress,
Popular readings of the story of Zacchaeus the tax collector in the Gospel of Luke portray him as a wealthy and corrupt person who changes because of his faith in Jesus. However, the story that Luke tells is slightly different. In Luke 19, Zacchaeus does not promise to give to the poor or practice reparative justice. Instead, the verbs Luke uses for this story are present tense verbs. While the English translations often read “I will give to the poor” and “I will pay back,” the Greek actually reads “I do give to the poor” (tois ptōchois didōmi) and “I do pay back” (apodidōdmi). This language suggests that Zacchaeus is already doing the work of justice long before Jesus arrives. The people of Jericho think that Zacchaeus is corrupt and sinful, but he is really a man of justice and mercy.
“…keep your eye out for people like Zacchaeus who have been quietly doing the work of faith and justice for years.”
As you begin your service to the American people, keep your eye out for people like Zacchaeus who have been quietly doing the work of faith and justice for years. Listen to what they have learned about patience, persistence, and grace in the face of enormous pressure. Lean on their wisdom, as you also seek to govern our nation following the ways of justice and mercy.
Cultivate in yourselves deep wells of faith, informed by your many faith traditions, from which you may draw as you seek to serve our nation. Do the work that makes for justice, particularly for “the least of these” (Matthew 25:40), regardless of the polls or popular opinion.
May you serve us faithfully.
Rev. Margaret Aymer, Ph. D.
The 1st Presbyterian Church, Shreveport, D. Thomasen Professor of New Testament Studies
Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary