“And the crowds asked him (John the Baptist), ‘What then shall we do? And he answered them, ‘Whoever has two tunics is to share with him who has none and whoever has food is to do likewise. Tax collectors also came to be baptized and said to him, ‘Teacher, what shall we do?’ And he said to them, ‘Collect no more than you are authorized to do. Soldiers then asked him, ‘And we, what shall we do?’ And he said to them, ‘Do not extort money from anyone by threats for false accusation, and be content with your wages.'” Luke 3:10-14
This was part of the gospel reading in church this past Sunday, and the passage on which the sermon was based. John the Baptist has just finished rebuking the people for their sins and lack of repentance, and their response is “What shall we do?”
You may remember that we discussed repentance a few months back, and I believe more than one of the Lutheran ladies mentioned that the literal meaning of this word is ‘to turn around’ or ‘go in another direction.’ John the Baptist is telling the crowd that they must turn around and do something different–they must serve others.
He doesn’t tell them to change their occupations or do anything drastic about their circumstances; they just need to go about their lives in a way that is helpful and fair to others. Soldiers are not to intimidate; tax collectors are not to cheat; everyone who has plenty must share with those who are in need; everyone is to be content with what they have.
Seems pretty simple, right? However, we’re still not doing it! How often do we abuse our authority over others? How often do we take a little more than we’re entitled to? How often do we envy that person with the bigger house, nicer car, or glamorous vacations? How willing are we to give our extra coat or extra cash to the homeless man on the corner?
If you’re anything like me, you don’t always do what you should. We’re still a brood of vipers and we still need to repent and try every single day to do a little better at being a servant. It doesn’t come naturally.
Thankfully John also preached some good news. He said:
“I baptize you with water, but he who is mightier than I is coming, the strap of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie.” Luke 3:16
Advent is a time of waiting and a time of repentance. A time to reflect upon the servanthood of Christ and to try to become better servants ourselves. Use this special season wisely. Serve others.