The Roman Empire was a plentiful and abundant society, much as our society is today. The people loved to watch sporting events, eat delicacies, and surround themselves with sensual pleasures. In the midst of that, John the Baptist came and called out to the people.
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? 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. The axe 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.”
The people didn’t know what that fruit was, that would demonstrate a true change from their sinful and selfish way of life, to one that honored God.
“What should we do then?” the crowd asked.
John answered, “The man with two tunics should share with him who has none, and the one who has food should do the same.”
Tax collectors also came to be baptized. “Teacher,” they asked, “what should we do?”
“Don’t collect any more than you are required to,” he told them.
Then some soldiers asked him, “And what should we do?”
He replied, “Don’t extort money and don’t accuse people falsely–be content with your pay.”
John had an answer to each group of people who approached him. Each was to give up something that they were taking from others, or give out of their abundance to meet the needs of those poorer and worse off. In North America we are so richly blessed, and out of that, we need to turn away from our riches and abundance and give it to those who are in great need.
I challenge you today to sponsor a child in a third world country. Go through your closet and donate a lot of your clothing to a homeless shelter. Look at your belongings and sell them, and donate the money to an organization that feeds the poor or cares for widows.