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, “The man with two tunics should share with him who has none, and the one who has food should do the same.”

     12 Tax collectors also 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?”

Luke 3:7-14 (NIV) 

    John the Baptist had begun his ministry of baptizing and teaching a message of repentance at the beginning of this passage. He saw among the crowds many who were only outwardly repentant without any desire to change their ways. In Matthew the men so accused were the Pharisees and the Sadducees. Since Luke did not identify them as such, we may consider that there were others as well who received this harsh criticism.

     The same is true today, our repentance must be genuine or it is meaningless. His words are for us — he commands us to bear fruit that can only come with repentance. Outward appearances do not turn us into children of God.

     When asked, Jesus told the people to be generous with their possessions and share with those who were needy. He charged the greedy (tax collectors and soldiers) to be honest with people and to be content with honest earnings. 

     Those commands were not only for those people, they apply to us today as well. Not everything that is legal is right. Slumlords and loan sharks get rich by taking advantage of the poor. The rich isolate themselves from the poor and may offer little or nothing to help them, while a person who has only a little excess will be much quicker to help meet the needs of others.

     If we are truly repentant of our sins and wish to follow Jesus’ example, we will hold our possessions with open hands, willing to share with those less fortunate.

     Lord, you know our hearts. Help us to be more like you in every way and to hold nothing back to satisfy our own greed.

Copyright © 2008 by Janice Green

Scripture quoted by permission. Quotations designated (NIV) are from THE HOLY BIBLE: NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION. Copyright 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Publishing House. All rights reserved.

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