How Not To Change Your Spouse

zacchaeus-1

The following post was written by Scott Credeur.

If you went to Sunday school as a kid, its very likely you learned a catchy song with some not so good hand motions that reveals a significant truth about marriage. What song do you ask?

It goes like this:

Zacchaeus was a wee little man and wee little man was he,

He climbed up in a sycamore tree for the Lord he wanted to see,

And as the savior passed that way he looked up in the tree,

And he said, “Zaccheus, you come down!”

For I’m coming to your house today.

What does this song have to do with marriage?

The story of Zacchaeus is told in Luke 19:1-10. He was a very wealthy, but corrupt, tax collector who was despised in his community. What made things worse? He was short. Really short. So short, he had to climb a nearby sycamore tree to have any chance at seeing Jesus passing by. I’ve heard him described as a lyin’, cheatin’, thievin’, tax collector with short man’s syndrome. Not a good combination!

When Jesus reached the spot where Zacchaeus was, he looked up, addressed Zacchaeus by name (this is where the hand motions get really bad), and told him to come down so he could visit his house. Make no mistake, Jesus knew exactly who Zacchaeus was and what he had done. The crowd was shocked that Jesus would be a guest of a sinner like Zacchaeus!

Jesus was giving an example of how to approach someone who is living in sin (been there with your spouse?). When Jesus ate and stayed at Zacchaeus’ home, he met his relational need for respect and attention. He focused on Zacchaeus’ relational need before he concentrated on his sinful deeds. In response to this, Zacchaeus felt compelled to right his wrong and give half of his possessions to the poor and pay back 4x the amount he had previously taken from people.

I wonder how this scene would have played out if Jesus had first confronted Zacchaeus on his sin and then asked himself over for dinner (the approach most of us use)?

Focusing first on our spouse’s sin usually leads to defensiveness, justification, and avoidance and seldom ends up making them feel loved, validated, or accepted, and even more rarely leads to lasting change.

By focusing on “the need underlying the deed” and showing Christ-like love to our spouse (our part), we will have a better chance of influencing them in the direction of repentance, or change (their part).

  • Do you go in “guns blazing” or “pointing fingers” when you see sin in your spouse?
  • Has this approach toward you ever made you feel more loved and validated?
  • Would you be open to doing it Jesus’ way?

“God’s kindness leads you toward repentance…”

Romans 2:3

P.S. – No disrespect to the writer of this catchy tune, but I do have a suggestion related to the hand motions. If you sung this tune in Sunday School your favorite part of the song was likely where you and all the other 3rd graders shook their finger in the air while shouting as loud as possible, “Zacchaeus, you come down!”

I don’t think Jesus was shaking and pointing his finger at Zacchaeus at all. I think his posture was much more welcoming. He welcomed him (the sinner) gladly.

Don’t imitate the hand motions you learned in Sunday School as you interact with your spouse. Imitate Christ. The One that leads with kindness.