If we have power, we must use it to help the powerless.
While John was preaching hot and heavy about what authentic repentance looks like, three groups of people approached him with the same operative question, “What should we do?” Okay, Messiah’s coming and God will judge the unrepentant. His ax is ready for swinging, so what do we do to escape its cut? John tailored his responses to each group a little differently.
He told the hyper-religious group to share their food and clothing with the poor and he commanded the tax-collecting shysters to stop robbing their neighbors. The last baptismal candidates were soldiers. To them the prophet said:
“Don’t extort money and don’t accuse people falsely—be content with your pay.”
These mercenary soldiers likely operated as the tax collectors’ muscle in their shakedowns of helpless fellow citizens. The Greek term that John used for “extort” means “to rob with violence.” They were so discontent with their take home pay that they resorted to leg-breaking for the IRS of the day. The preacher told them to live within their means with their state-issued paycheck and refrain from manipulating the powerless for extra cash.
I warn you not to dismiss John’s word just because you’re not in the Army or an enforcer for the mob! Like the soldiers, most of us have some power of some sort over someone, and how we steward that power says more about us than our possession of the power itself. How we use our power is reflective of have truly repentant we are. Continue reading