Luke 3: 10-18
When crowds of people came out for baptism because it was the popular thing to do, John exploded: “Brood of snakes! What do you think you’re doing slithering down here to the river? Do you think a little water on your snakeskins is going to deflect God’s judgment? It’s your life that must change, not your skin. And don’t think you can pull rank by claiming Abraham as ‘father.’ Being a child of Abraham is neither here nor there—children of Abraham are a dime a dozen. God can make children from stones if he wants. What counts is your life. Is it green and blossoming? Because if it’s deadwood, it goes on the fire.”
The crowd asked him, “Then what are we supposed to do?”
“If you have two coats, give one away,” he said. “Do the same with your food.”
Tax men also came to be baptised and said, “Teacher, what should we do?”
He told them, “No more extortion—collect only what is required by law.”
Soldiers asked him, “And what should we do?”
He told them, “No shakedowns, no blackmail—and be content with your rations.”
The interest of the people by now was building. They were all beginning to wonder, “Could this John be the Messiah?”
But John intervened: “I’m baptising you here in the river. The main character in this drama, to whom I’m a mere stagehand, will ignite the kingdom life, a fire, the Holy Spirit within you, changing you from the inside out. He’s going to clean house—make a clean sweep of your lives. He’ll place everything true in its proper place before God; everything false he’ll put out with the trash to be burned.”
For all the austerity of his life, John spoke to people in words they could grasp. It was his austerity that drew people’s respect and trust. Here was a man who cared nothing for comfort, money or fame, who could not be bought, and who could speak the truth without fear.
Preparing the way for the Messiah is not simply a matter of belonging to the Jewish nation, John insists, but comes about through repentance, through changing the way one thinks and changing one’s lifestyle. John gives some practical examples. People should share clothing and food with those who have none as basic expressions of faith. To tax collectors he says, “Collect no more than the amount prescribed for you.” Soldiers also ask him, “And we, what should we do?” John replies, “Do not extort money from anyone with threats or false accusations, and be satisfied with your wages.”
What does my lifestyle say about my faith in Christ? Do I hoard or share what I have with others, especially those who are poor and on the margins of society?