The Gospel According to John the Baptist

I was thinking today of the gospel according to John the Baptist. Specifically, here was John's mission:

Luke 3.3-6
He went into all the country around the Jordan, preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. As is written in the book of the words of Isaiah the prophet:
"A voice of one calling in the desert,
'Prepare the way for the Lord,
make straight paths for him.
Every valley shall be filled in,
every mountain and hill made low.
The crooked roads shall become straight,
the rough ways smooth.
And all mankind will see God's salvation.' "
So John is preaching a message of repentance to "prepare the way of the Lord" in the hearts and minds of the people. So how were the people to repent and prepare for the Lord? John gets specific:
Luke 3.10-14
When all the people asked him, "What must we do, then?" he answered, "Anyone who has two tunics must share with the one who has none, and anyone with something to eat must do the same." There were tax collectors, too, who came for baptism, and these said to him, "Master, what must we do?" He said to them, "Exact no more that the appointed rate." Some soldiers asked him in their turn, "What about us? What must we do?" He said to them, "No intimidation! No extortion! Be content with your pay!"
What is striking in each bit of advice is how John focuses on the economic facets of life, work, and relationships. Repentance, for John, looks like this:
If you have extra clothing, share it.
If you have extra food, share it.
Do not charge (or collect) more than what is fair.
Do not pressure or extort people for money.
Be content with your paycheck.
I find this interesting as I tend to think of repentance as emotional, of feeling contrite. But for John, repentance is fundamentally about economics or, more precisely, getting right with money and our possessions. Preparing our hearts for the Lord begins with sharing, fairness, and contentment. That is, if someone is seeking a closer or better relationship with Jesus it seems the the first bit of advice John would give is pretty simple: Start with sharing your material possessions. That's the quickest way to Jesus.

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