Excerpted from In Those Days and In These, an Advent Devotional Guide from the NC Council of Churches
John said to the crowds that came out to be baptized by him, “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bear fruits worthy of repentance. Do not begin to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our ancestor’; for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children to Abraham. Even now the ax is lying at the root of the trees; every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.”
And the crowds asked him, “What then should we do?” In reply he said to them, “Whoever has two coats must share with anyone who has none; and whoever has food must do likewise.” Even tax collectors came to be baptized, and they asked him, “Teacher, what should we do?” He said to them, “Collect no more than the amount prescribed for you.” Soldiers also asked him, “And we, what should we do?” He said to them, “Do not extort money from anyone by threats or false accusation, and be satisfied with your wages.”
As the people were filled with expectation, and all were questioning in their hearts concerning John, whether he might be the Messiah, John answered all of them by saying, “I baptize you with water; but one who is more powerful than I is coming; I am not worthy to untie the thong of his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing fork is in his hand, to clear his threshing floor and to gather the wheat into his granary; but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.”
So, with many other exhortations, he proclaimed the good news to the people.
This passage in Luke begins with John berating believers from all walks of life as they have come to be baptized. I have always read the response of the masses, “What then should we do?” as a respectfully asked question where the body of believers yearned for the answer. But if it were me in that situation, I would probably be a little defensive. I would probably be sarcastic and outwardly frustrated as I asked the question, “Okay, what do you want me to do about it???” I probably would not want to hear the answer and I would probably ignore the answer.
John had an answer. “Whoever has two coats must share with anyone who has none; and whoever has food must do likewise.” So why do the tax collectors and soldiers ask the question again? Did they not think the answer applied to them? As people of faith, John was talking to all of us, and he clearly states that we MUST share our coats and food with those who are lacking. John did not say we ought to share our coats or food if the opportunity presented itself. John said we MUST.
This is not the only time we are presented with these instructions to give generously of ourselves and possessions. Let us not forget the last parable told in Matthew 25, “Then the king will say to those at his right hand, ‘Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.’
As millions are fleeing war-torn and downtrodden countries right now. We MUST share our blessings with them. Be people of faith and bear good fruit.
There are a number of local organizations providing resources for refugees. One particular organization, North Carolina US Committee for Refugees and Immigrants, provides the opportunity for community members and groups to welcome newly-arrived refugees into their homes. The Welcome Home Project asks volunteers to secure furniture and household goods and set up the house for the arrival of the family. Other organizations use volunteers to visit with refugees, assist with legal documents, and provide transportation to appointments.
So what then should we do? We asked the question. Will we roll our eyes and come back to the answer when it suits us or will we work to carry out these faithful acts?
Prayer: Dear Lord, give me the strength and courage to share the many blessings I have with others. May my choices reflect my faith and honor you. Amen.