When John the Baptist came out the wilderness to start his public ministry, he came with guns blazing. His message here seems two-fold: produce fruit in keeping with your faith, and don’t rest on your laurels. These two things in practice will change our lives…
7 John said to the crowds coming out to be baptized by him, “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath? 8 Produce fruit in keeping with repentance. And do not begin to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ For I tell you that out of these stones God can raise up children for Abraham. 9 The ax is already at the root of the trees, and every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire.”
10 “What should we do then?” the crowd asked.
11 John answered, “Anyone who has two shirts should share with the one who has none, and anyone who has food should do the same.”
12 Even tax collectors came to be baptized. “Teacher,” they asked, “what should we do?”
13 “Don’t collect any more than you are required to,” he told them.
14 Then some soldiers asked him, “And what should we do?”
He replied, “Don’t extort money and don’t accuse people falsely—be content with your pay.”
Here’s what he said in verse 8:
- Live a life which matches your faith
- Don’t use your status as a child of God as an excuse.
That’s what he said. There were people in the crowds who were not living lives pleasing to God. We see people using their power to extort others, others skimming money in their jobs, and generally speaking, a lack of concern for those who are less privileged…
Their excuse in terms of pleasing God seemed to be that they were children of Abraham – in other words, we are pleasing to God because we are from Israel. We are pleasing to God because we go to the right church. And John called them on it. Just because you eat at McDonald’s doesn’t make you a hamburger.
Live better than that, people.
For Jesus to become greater in my life, and for me to become less, I should live less for me and more for him. Live less for me and more for God’s purpose.
Ahhh… his purpose. What is his purpose? I am searching for the purpose of God, some will say, and when I find it I will serve him. Uh-huh.
John tells us that generosity with less privileged and honest living is God’s purpose for me. Start there. Less accumulation for me and greater giving to help others. This is fruit which shows that our tree is rooted in the one who authored generosity on this earth.
God gave his only son for people who had rejected him. He gave his son to live and die as a sacrifice for us so that we might turn to him and reconcile with the God who made us. That is more generous than anything I will ever do.
Yet I ought to try. Less for me, more for Thee. Less for me, and more for the least of these brothers of mine… We can live this today…