Tax collectors also came to be baptized and said to him, “Teacher, what shall we do?” And he said to them, “Collect no more than you are authorized to do.” Soldiers also asked him, “And we, what shall we do?” And he said to them, “Do not extort money from anyone by threats or by false accusation, and be content with your wages.”
As the people were in expectation, and all were questioning in their hearts concerning John, whether he might be the Christ, John answered them all, saying, “I baptize you with water, but he who is mightier than I is coming, the strap of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire. His winnowing fork is in his hand, to clear his threshing floor and to gather the wheat into his barn, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.”
So with many other exhortations he preached good news to the people. But Herod the tetrarch, who had been reproved by him for Herodias, his brother’s wife, and for all the evil things that Herod had done, added this to them all, that he locked up John in prison.
This has been a brief synopsis of John’s ministry from its beginning to its end. Jesus’ baptism is treated separately by Luke when he begins to tell of Jesus’ ministry from beginning to end. We return in this passage to a continuation of how John answers the question, How then shall we live? The emphasis is on shall. He answers two groups of people, those entrusted with a degree of power and therefore having the ability to abuse that power for personal gain. His answer to them is one that highlights treating others fairly and holding the questioners to a high standard of conduct.
That message is one we can heed today. We too are advised to treat others fairly, not looking for ways to increase our personal gain. We too are held to higher standards in fulfilling our duties as given; not giving in to the temptation to extort, falsely accuse for personal gain. Our trust is in the Lord to provide what we need, not to trust in our own schemes to increase our potential gain. We too are told to be content with our wages, be content with what he has provided. The attitude is one of love and concern for others, one of contentment with where God has placed us, one that has an outward focus rather than an inward focus.
This is where we come into conflict with the world around us. We hear from our childhood to adulthood to attempt to improve our status with the emphasis on us. The difference between those who came to John and those who did not was the difference in their focus and the inward drive. One is to please the Lord, the other is to please self. How then shall we live becomes more like how then shall we please the Lord. God gives an answer in 2 Chronicles 7:14 – if my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land. Add this to what John answered, we have a beginning for experiencing change in our lives, in the present world situation. What shall we do…