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The Change Formula

The Change Formula

 In Luke 19, we meet Zacchaeus. His name means pure, but his life was far from it. He was regarded as a notorious sinner and hated outcast.

 Zacchaeus was a chief tax collector of Jericho, a position of influence and wealth. We suspect he was especially wealthy, since Jericho was known for the lucrative production and export of balsam, highly prized as both medicine and perfume at this time. Zacchaeus did not harvest, process, nor export balsam. He took his cut right off the top without lifting so much as finger. We also know his cut was more than the tax Rome required. He sold out to his  oppressors and made a huge profit from exploiting his own people.

 Even though Zacchaeus had material security, his actions show he desired change in the deepest ways. His actions also show he achieved the lasting change he sought.

 Bob Logan[1] reminds us that there is a formula for successful change. Zacchaeus’ life exemplifies it.

 Dissatisfaction + Vision + First Steps ≥ the Cost of the Change


Zacchaeus was dissatisfied with his life. Did he realize his life lacked meaning? Was he tired of being ridiculed? Was he lonely? Was he concerned for his future or the future of his household? Did he feel far from God? Whatever the reason, it was real enough to ignite his desire for change.  

How much energy have we wasted keeping everyone happy? Keeping up appearances that everything is going well? Dissatisfaction gives us the desire to change. Change won’t come without it. It is a disservice to smooth over situations rather than harness their energy for positive change.  


In Jesus, Zacchaeus caught a vision of new life: being an honest businessman, caring for the poor in his community, following Christ as a forgiven child of God, a new legacy for his household. Vision provides a picture of the goal.     Picturing a new, healthy, holy future motivates change through its many steps and focuses our efforts.

First Steps

Dissatisfaction provides the desire to change. Vision points to the results of the change, the goal, while providing incentive and focus. First steps begin the journey of change.

First steps feel risky since they involve reorienting our lives towards the new and the Godly. Zacchaeus’ first step was to see Jesus and he was willing (literally!) to go out on a limb to do so. He ran and he climbed and the encounter was far more positive than he dared to imagine. In order to change, we do not need to know every step of the journey from the beginning, but we do need to know the first few.

Cost of the Change

Change comes at a cost. It takes courage to expend time, energy, and money in order to journey into a preferred, but untested future. The known is comfortable, even if it is dysfunctional and dis-eased. Change at the least is awkward, like a baby learning how to walk. At the most, change involves learning a whole new lifestyle, with new habits, relationships, and priorities. For change to be successful, the dissatisfaction with the present, the vision of the preferred future, and the first steps of the journey must seem greater in value than the cost of the change.

God, through Zacchaeus, show us that change is worth the risk. Zacchaeus did not let his height nor humiliation stop him. He did not let his wealth nor security stop him. He reoriented and repented and his life was redeemed. Salvation came to him and his household. For Zacchaeus, being at peace with God, others, and himself was worth the cost of the change. The change God is calling us to make is worth it for us as well.

 Lisa Degrenia

[1] Bob Logan is a bestselling author, coach, workshop leader, church planter and president of CoachNet International Ministries.