When the people came to John the Baptist they asked him what they should do to please the Lord. John didn’t get all “religious” and tell them they needed to go and light a candle, or throw money into the offering plate, spend more time studying the bible, or buy the latest piece of gospel music, bumper sticker for the chariot or to go out and evangelize the world. No, instead his message was very simple.
He told them to “do the right thing.” He said to do what is right for this is what every person needs to do if they are walking with the Lord.
Pretty simple message isn’t it? If you want to live a Christian life then you need to do what is pleasing to God, and that means doing what is right.
But in what way? We see that when John the Baptist taught about doing what is right, he was focussed on one specific area of life. Relationships. To do what is right is all about how you treat your fellow human beings. it’s not about the environment, it’s not about animal welfare or any of the many other endeavours people pour their lives into these days. The focus John was showing was to do what is right with the people around you.
Look at the examples John gave and see if we can bring these into today’s situation. He said, “He who has two coats, let him share with him who has none; and he who has food, let him do likewise.” (Verse 11) He is saying that if you have an abundance, share it with those who are less well off. Give to those who are in need and help those who have a need by providing for their physical needs if you have the opportunity.
Note here also that he is not saying that if you have two coats give them both. Or if you have food give it all away. No. He is saying that if you have excess give it to those who do not, but not to the extent that you leave yourself in want. He is not telling you to be a martyr, as some people would have you believe. Every person’s first priority with their goods and resources is to provide for the needs of their husband, wife, children or family.
Then he moves on to those who are in business. The tax collectors asked, “Teacher, what shall we do?” (Verse 12) John’s response was to collect no more than they were appointed to collect. That is, don’t use your position and power to extort money from people.
Some years ago we saw the film “Wall Street” which had that classic line that, “Greed is good.” Well they were wrong! Greed is NOT good. It is very, very bad and those in business need to understand that if they are to do what is right. Greed will eat up the resources that could or should be used to help others. It is the greed of a few that became the catalyst for the current global financial crisis, which is causing heartbreak, destitution, despair and hurt for countless millions today. John warned that those in business need to do what is right when dealing in their business with people.
John then moves on to those in positions of power or governing authority when soldiers come to ask, “And we, what shall we do?” (Verse 14) His message again is the same, that they should do what is right. “Rob no one by violence or by false accusation, and be content with your wages.” (Verse 14) There are some in positions of governing authority who use their positions to rob and extort today. They go into public office for the purpose of cheating and lining their own pockets. Every so often we read or hear about corruption amongst government officials from the highest to the lowest levels of power.
Doing what is right is a simple but very powerful message. It says that you should not take advantage of anyone but be prepared to help them if you have the means or it is within your power to do so. When the people came to John he told them to bear fruit that befits repentance. Doing the right thing by the people you are in contact with is bearing the fruits of repentance. Live your life by the maxim that you will always do the right things and you will go far. Do the opposite and you had better be prepared for the consequences for the Lord will judge us all. Better to be judged for the good than for evil.
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