Luke 3:11-14

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.” Luke 3:11-14

The crowd asked John, “What then should we do?” So he told them.

Share what you have with others who don’t have what you have.

Don’t use a government position for self-enrichment.

Don’t abuse the power that wearing a uniform gives to you.

Can you imagine their reactions?

Some might say “SHARE WHAT WE HAVE WITH OTHERS WHO DON’T HAVE WHAT YOU HAVE? That’s SOCIALISM. Heck, that’s COMMUNISM!!! Why should I go to work every day and work my fingers to the bone while some other sad sack sits around watching Netflix while I give them the shirt off my back and the food I bought for MY family?”

Others might say “I’d like to live in a place and time where everyone has clothes to wear and food to eat. If sharing gets us there, we ought to do it.”

Some might say “WHO CARES IF TAX COLLECTORS GAME THE SYSTEM? AS LONG AS I GET A FAIR SHAKE, I COULD CARE LESS ABOUT WHAT HAPPENS TO SOMEONE ELSE.”

Others might say “Human community requires some form of governance and all forms of governance requires funding. The purpose of government is governing, not enriching those chosen to do that work. We need a fair taxation system and people with integrity to lead it.”

Some might say “I SUPPORT OUR TROOPS! I SUPPORT LAW ENFORCEMENT!”

Others might say “I also support our troops and law enforcement. But I insist on accountability for those who abuse the power we entrust to them.”

Do you see the problem here?

It isn’t that John says anything revolutionary. All he does is point out what basic ethics look like. Doing the right things by people. Caring for the needs of others. He doesn’t tell anyone to do the impossible. Just do the next right thing.

So why the harsh reactivity? Not by the crowds who heard John speak but potentially by the people who read this devotion?

No, I don’t believe the United States was founded to be a “Christian nation” but I do think it is absolutely indisputable that it was founded on Christian principles (which are also shared by people from many different faith traditions, even those with no faith at all) – on coming together for the common good, on establishing laws and checks and balances which take human sinfulness seriously, on mutual sacrifice for mutual gain, on the freedom to accept personal responsibility to do our part. We’re still working on it. We would do well to work together.

And John’s admonitions to the crowd prove very timely places to start.

Let us pray: Dear Lord, working out what the common good looks like in our lives can seem so much more complicated than each of us doing our part, but we know we have to start there. At a time when people seem so deeply divided, call us back to the basics. Call us ever back to honoring you, to loving our neighbors, to doing the next right thing. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

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