The gospel story of Zacchaeus illustrates the effect that Jesus can have on a person with poor moral history. Think about your own fascination with Jesus and where that curiousity takes you. 

Inevitably an encounter with Jesus leads us to war against our own sense of denial about right and wrong.

Luke 19:
Jesus entered Jericho and was passing through. A man was there by the name of Zacchaeus; he was a chief tax collector and was wealthy. He wanted to see who Jesus was, but because he was short he could not see over the crowd. So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore-fig tree to see him, since Jesus was coming that way.
When Jesus reached the spot, he looked up and said to him,“Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I must stay at your house today.” So he came down at once and welcomed him gladly.
All the people saw this and began to mutter, “He has gone to be the guest of a sinner.”
But Zacchaeus stood up and said to the Lord, “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.”
Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because this man, too, is a son of Abraham. 10 For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.”

As we think about morality, what was Zacchaeus’ condition? The community had an opinion of him. He was a ‘sinner’ with a bad reputation for cheating people.

In his culture Zacchaeus would be regarded totally negatively because his wealth was "extorted" from fellow Jews on behalf of occupying Rome. This explains the public reaction to Jesus' invitation later in the story.[i]

But what did Zaccheus think of himself? In this short story we find a man who illustrates steps four and five. We see a man who has to take a hard look at himself and turn to God.

STEP FOUR: Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.

STEP FIVE: Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.

As a tax collector, he was the chief. He trained and supervised the other tax collectors. They answered to him. He was good with numbers and collection techniques. But in spite of his authority, he knew how to steal and get away with it. He abused his power.

As he encounters the acceptance and loving attention of God through Jesus, he is moved to consider how corrupt he has become. The searching, fearless, moral inventory reveals a history of disregard for the poor and criminal action toward his clients. The man who had good reason to keep secrets is moved to confess and start making things right.

As he looks at what he has unjustly accumulated, he realizes that he could make amends. Half of his assets will be sold or given away to people in need. Secondly, he would go over the ‘fudged books’ and do right to the people he had ripped off.

To repay someone four times over had special significance.

Normal restitution added only 20 percent (Lev 5:16; Num 5:7). The Mishna tended rarely to apply a more severe 40 percent penalty (m. Ketubot3:9; m. Baba Qamma 7:1-5). This rich man, touched by Jesus and responding with faith, exemplifies the restoration of a "lost one" and opens up his resources to be shared with others. He does not have to sell everything to receive Jesus' commendation. His heart is in the right place when it comes to possessions.[ii]

As a step five example, Zaccheus admitted to God, himself and the disciples the exact nature of his wrongdoing.

In the gospel we find that Jesus declares war on our denial. We are moved by God’s acceptance to become introspective and repentant. Our moral compass is remagnetized to point us in the right direction.

[i] IVP New Testament Commentary
[ii] IVP New Testament Commentary