9Even now the ax of God’s judgment is poised, ready to sever the roots of the trees. Yes, every tree that does not produce good fruit will be chopped down and thrown into the fire.”
10The crowds asked, “What should we do?”
11John replied, “If you have two shirts, give one to the poor. If you have food, share it with those who are hungry.”
12Even corrupt tax collectors came to be baptized and asked, “Teacher, what should we do?”
13He replied, “Collect no more taxes than the government requires.”
14“What should we do?” asked some soldiers.
John replied, “Don’t extort money or make false accusations. And be content with your pay.”
The crowds asked John the very same question we are often asking: “What should we do?” John’s answers and examples say a lot.
I have to admit, the first answer scares the crap out of me! I know I am not doing this but I’m not going to rationalize away what it is saying. “If you have two shirts, give one to the poor. If you have food, share it with those who are hungry.” This is telling us to be charitable, but when you really read it you quickly see that’s a cop-out. It doesn’t say if you are well clothed and well fed, give some of your surplus to the poor. Food and clothing were not taken for granted back then. John isn’t allowing for any surplus or savings at all. John is saying that we are to share till we ourselves are living in faith that God will provide for us and not depending on our own savings and surpluses.
John’s not finished. Tax collectors were expected to cheat to make a living. It is one of the reasons they were so hated. Rome didn’t care as long as they got their money and to be honest, other people knew they would take that job and cheat others if they had the chance. It was accepted…except by John and except by God. God expects us to do what’s right even if no one cares but him. He expects us to be just in an unjust world. This is relevant in so many places today. Cash jobs to avoid taxes. Cheating in a sport till you get caught. Not telling the whole truth if someone doesn’t ask. Not doing your best at work. What about doing things like reading blogs or social media on company time? Did I mention I fail this test often too?
Finally he tells a soldier to not take advantage of his authority and instead be content. Really? I bet not many of us are clear on this on either. Many times we are so green with envy we look more Martian than Human. We care credit card balances so we can have the latest electronic gadget or so we can go to the coolest restaurant. We really do think the neighbor’s grass is greener than ours.
Can you imagine truly living by those standards even if no one else does? Can you imagine living someplace where everyone lives by those standards even if no one has to? Wow…that would be…heaven?
Ok Holy Spirit, I need the courage to actually live a heavenly life here on earth.