A REPENTANT ECONOMIC LIFE
I read in Luke 3:7-14 about John the Baptist calling on people to repent. “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.’”
I thought on this first part of his answer before I moved on to the specific repentance agenda JtheB gives for tax collectors and soldiers. John’s first instruction seemed to be a general one, to the general person in the crowd. As I thought about it I figured maybe this has something to do with me, and you.
As a Christian believer I consider repentance to be necessary for a healthy spiritual life. I am conscious that I am a sinner. Sometimes I actually realize I have committed a sin, though I admit that sometimes my sins happen so fast by omission or commission, or by thought or attitude, that I didn’t even realize I was being tempted or acknowledge to myself or God that I was doing wrong. Later, after the fact of my sinning, it sometimes comes home to me that I have failed God. Yes, sometimes I do know full well I am being tempted and full well I am choosing to sin. Those moments don’t make me feel good about myself.
Is it possible that JtheB is exposing some sinfulness in me that I didn’t even realize I had when he says this to the crowd? What did I do except work hard enough and save enough to have food and clothes? Even before he comes, later in his remarks, to stealing and exploitation and oppression from authority he is picking on regular, ordinary, working type materialists; like us.
We are all materialists. We have to be to live in a material world, but Jesus nails us in Luke 12 about this propensity of ours to worry about normal and necessary things. Here John calls on us to share with those who are without. It seems he is even calling on those of us who might only have two tunics, or just a little extra food, to share with those who have none. This would imply a sacrificial generosity and not simply a generosity of surplus.
This prompts me to think, and to pray, and ask Jesus to help me to look for those who have such need. I am prompted to think about and care even before I am asked by someone for help. In fact, now that I think about it, being preemptive in merciful giving to those who are without might be a better way of showing love than just responding at the moment of a request by a panhandler. Maybe it might look like I thought about them even before they thought about me.
Then it occurs to me that a lot of us don’t know any poor people. We don’t hang out with them, we don’t go to their neighborhoods, and we prefer to do our proactive mercy through agencies where we drop off our old clothes or canned goods. This repentant life seems to want to affect my lifestyle. Oh, I do believe in grace, forgiveness, the washing away of my sins by the blood of Jesus, and that salvation is by faith. I don’t think of repenting as a way of gaining God’s favor. I think of it more as the way God wants me to live, and that he can empower me to live the way he wants by his supernatural power.
Lord, open my eyes to see the poor, to feel their need. Lord, move me to give once I see. Forgive me for waiting so long, for waiting until I no longer want what I have so that I can give without any loss to myself. Lord, give me faith and courage so that I won’t be afraid of becoming poor myself, that my security would not be my idolatry.