10 “What then should we do?” the crowds were asking him. 11 He replied to them, “The one who has two shirts must share with someone who has none, and the one who has food must do the same.” 12 Tax collectors also came to be baptized, and they asked him, “Teacher, what should we do?” 13 He told them, “Don’t collect any more than what you have been authorized.” 14 Some soldiers also questioned him, “What should we do?” He said to them, “Don’t take money from anyone by force or false accusation, and be satisfied with your wages.”
In today’s reading, we are presented with three groups of people. I call them the 3-C’s. They’re the sincerely Curious, the newly Converted, and the Cynic.
In yesterday’s devotional, you saw John, the preacher, resort to name calling! He was trying to capture the attention of the crowd, to make them realize that Abraham wasn’t their free pass for salvation. In other words, they wouldn’t get into heaven on the coat tails of their ancestors. There are no grandchildren or nieces and nephews in heaven—only children of God. The truth remains the same today: it’s not who or what you know, but Who intimately knows you (Matthew 7:21-23). There comes a point where you need to own your faith and have your own relationship with God.
The sincerely Curious asked what they were to do if they couldn’t rely on Abraham. (You’ve got to love this—as a Christian, this is a dream gospel conversation!) John responded with some specific instructions: give the shirt off your back and feed the hungry! This was in stark contrast to the belief of those who assumed they were entitled to heaven simply because of their heritage. While acts of service weren’t the source of anyone’s salvation, it did mark them as a God-follower, as one who lived out their faith in anticipation of the coming Messiah.
The second group of people in that crowd were the newly Converted. Tax collectors were despised, even loathed. Fresh out of the baptismal waters, John also gave them instructions on how they should behave. This group of individuals had a lot more convincing to do to restore their integrity.
I love how all the biblical writers are on the same page, even when they write years apart. James, the brother of Jesus, later said the same thing in James 2:15-17. His point was that faith is useless without works. In other words, back up what you say you believe with action. Echoing Isaiah 58:7, a Christian’s responsibility is to uplift the poor. And we must not forget the apostle Paul, who had the tall task of convincing the Jews he had changed. The only way the tax collectors could convince others they had given their life to God was to prove it by becoming honest in their dealings.
Finally, there was the Cynic. John was testing the willingness of the hardened soldiers to change their ways. In essence what he said to them was, “Don’t bully the citizens, don’t take what’s not yours, and don’t complain about your wages.”
So which of these three do you identify with most? Are you truly seeking what it means to become a Christ-follower? Are you a Christian who may believe but isn’t backing up your speech with action? Are you skeptical of the Christian walk and not ready to commit your faith and actions to Christ?
Questions to Ask Yourself
- To the Curious or the Cynic: Contact us at (615) 324-6242 or [email protected]. A church leader would love to talk with you about following Christ.
- To the Converted: When was the last time you asked God, “What should I be doing?” What will you do this year to meet the practical needs of others? How will others be convinced that you are a true follower of Christ?
Pray for the health of churches, both locally and around the world. Healthy churches large and small in all parts of the world pray, send, and go to reach those who haven’t heard or embraced the gospel.