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.
“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 →
We’re talking about how John the Baptizer sized up the legitimacy of one’s repentance. Hip deep in the river he preached, “Produce fruit in keeping with repentance!” When three different groups of people came for baptism John gave each of them a litmus test to assess whether or not they’re ready for Messiah’s kingship.
This was big since these were people who worked for the occupying Roman oppressors collecting taxes from their own people. Worse than that, these shyster employees of an evil state typically extorted additional cash for their own use! They had their own neighbors by the throat. If they refused to pay, they would have to answer to Big Brother Rome. As much as the Jews hated Romans, they detested their sell out brothers more.
John’s message to us is…
If we have leverage, we are required to use it for the advantage of those who lack it.
John was at the river preaching hard and heavy as always. He called his audience (the religious ones in particular) a bunch of snakes and threatened them with the image of God’s ax leaning up against the tree ready for chopping! Not really your run of the mill prosperity gospel preacher was John! Most of all he commanded them to “bear fruit that shows your repentance is the real deal!”
Three different groups of people who insisted on escaping the ax wanted to know what that “fruit” would look like. One after the other asked him the same question: “What should we do?”
Each group had something that John told them to surrender in. One group had stuff (more food and clothes than they needed), another had leverage (the IRS of the day), and the last group had power (sword-wielding soldiers). What would repentance look like for each? Continue reading →