Hunkered Down Devotion

Luke 3:10-14 (Voice)
People: 10 What shall we do to perform works from changed lives?
John the Baptist: 11 The person who has two shirts must share with the person who has none. And the person with food must share with the one in need.
12 Some tax collectors were among those in the crowd seeking baptism.
Tax Collectors: Teacher, what kind of fruit is God looking for from us?
John the Baptist: 13 Stop overcharging people. Only collect what you must turn over to the Romans.
Soldiers: 14 What about us? What should we do to show true change?
John the Baptist: Don’t extort money from people by throwing around your power or making false accusations, and be content with your pay.

As John the Baptist prepares the way for Jesus, the people he is calling to repentance want to know what that repentance should look like.  He tells them that turning your life around and dedicating it to God isn’t just an idea, but it is something that must bear fruit.  There must be tangible evidence that something has changed.

The people, perhaps genuinely unsure, but perhaps looking for the easy way out or the least they could do, press John further – what kind of evidence?  What do these acts look like? The answer John gives, is simple and clear – even if living into it might not always be.

John begins with general guidance, if you have more than you need (importantly not more than you want) then you must share with those that don’t have all they need.  Then he moves to answer questions from individuals specific to their professions.  

Tax collectors are to stop skimming off the top – which wasn’t illegal at the time, but it was immoral as it took advantage of people who had no recourse, and it was participating in the oppression of your own people.  Soldiers – who had an almost unopposed power of might in the ancient world – were instructed not to abuse that power, and to instead be content with their own wages.  

A shorter version of these pieces of advice, and one that is applicable whether you are a tax collector, soldier, or anyone else is this: Do the right thing.  The right thing, it seems clear, is to treat others with respect, kindness, and compassion.  The right thing is to place a higher value on the real needs of others, than the wants and accumulation of things for ourselves.  

This is a challenging message.  It is a message that, seems at least, to run counter to our natural instincts, and it certainly runs in direct opposition to the way in which the world works.  And yet, it is exactly in line with what it means to walk and live in the way of Jesus Christ.  So the question becomes what will the works of our lives represent – the way of Jesus or the way of the world?
Sharing God’s Love, 

Prayer:   Lord, help us to walk in your ways and to live in such a way that we produce the works of a changed life.  Amen.

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