Matthew 3:10-14 - What then Shall We Do?
Why did Christ’s coming into this world not bring about more change than it does?
Why is today the impact of His atoning work not greater than it is?
It cannot be denied that there are not too many anymore here in Canada who can claim ignorance of the birth of the Lord Jesus Christ. Still it is also true that there are too many living today with lives unchanged by Christ Jesus, our Lord. There is a lot of commotion on and around December 25th. We commemorate the birth of the Saviour of the world. But what about the sovereign claims of this same Saviour today, in your home, your family, your job, your social life?
John the Baptist was the herald of Christ’s coming. His ministry served to prepare the way for the Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore the core of his message was simple:
Prepare the way of the Lord, make His paths straight...
John knew about barriers and obstacles erected by individuals and nations between themselves and Christ’s saving and renewing power. Those barriers should be broken down. The obstacles pushed away. How else can you expect Christ Jesus and His atoning work to have any impact upon your life?
But where do you start? John the Baptist did not leave his listeners in the dark. Responding to John’s call to repentance, they asked him, “What then shall we do?”
Maybe they expected John to answer: start the same kind of life I live. Put on a garment of camel’s hair, a leather girdle around your waist and go out and preach! Leave your job, try to make converts! But John did not say that at all. He left them where they were. On their job sites. In their homes. With their families. In their society. There they had to start. There they had to practice that basic command, “Love God and your neighbour.”
“He who has two coats, let him share with him who has none; and he who has food, let him do likewise.” Repentance is evident in simple deeds of love.
Tax collectors came to John. They were men who as agents of Caesar Augustus or king Herod collected custom duties. They were hated and despised, because mostly they took a lot more than they were entitled to, feeding their own pockets. They also came and asked John, “Teacher, what shall we do?”
Again John did not say, “Close your office, give up your job.” But he does tell them to break with the sins of their profession. Resist the temptations you are confronted with in your daily work. And make there while you are performing the duties of your office a straight road for the Lord.
“Collect no more than is appointed you.” Don’t abuse your position to enrich yourself.
Soldiers also came. They often collaborated with the tax collectors to make some extra money. If people didn’t want to pay the taxes the collectors demanded, soldiers were called in to force them to pay up. They listened to John the Baptist and they heard the call to prepare the way of the Lord. They asked, “And we, what shall we do?”
John again does not forbid them to be soldiers. He does not say, “Quit the army.” No!
Rob no one by violence or by false accusation, and be content with your wages.
In other words, you should break with the sins of your profession. No terrorization to increase your wages. No false accusations to make some extra money. Be content with your pay.
Why does the coming of Christ Jesus into this world have so little effect upon the lives of so many? Some have said it: we have had ages of Christianity, and not much has changed through all those years. How come?
Can it be blamed on Christ, His atoning work? Definitely not!
Christ’s saving work is abundantly sufficient to wash away the sins of the whole world.
Can it be blamed on the men who were the messengers of the Good News of Christ?
They certainly were and are not perfect. Some of them had and have an accent. Worse, they sometimes stumbled and fell into sin. But that is not the reason that many people live lives without the joy of Christ and without hope in this world.
Some have said: the problem is with the structures of society. They have to be changed.
Others say: it’s my family, my job, the opportunities I receive. If God had only given me a different life, a different family, another position, then I would have cleared up the barriers and loved and joyfully served Him from the heart.
We can learn here from this Scripture passage.
If we wonder about the question why the age long communication of Christ’s coming did not make a greater impact, don’t look to others. Let’s look at ourselves!
What then Shall We Do?
The answer to that question depends of course on what we are doing now.
Is there perhaps in our life a specific barrier to which we hold on but which indeed hinders Christ Jesus to penetrate our heart and life with His grace? Perhaps we take a bit more than we are entitled to? Or in our selfishness we do a lot less than we in fact should to help others who are in need. Start to break down that barrier!
Some people think that they should not mix God with the rest of their lives. They may meet Him in church or in their private devotions, but there is a large area where, they think, they can live and work without even considering Him. But it is not true. The place to serve God is in the midst of this world. In your marriage, your family, your job. Martin Luther once said:
What you do in your house is worth as much as if you did it in heaven for our Lord God. For what we do in our calling here on earth in accordance with His command, He counts as if it were done in heaven for Him.
If we would complain that we have gone through so many Christmas celebrations already, but that nothing much has changed, let’s not blame it on others, or on structures, or on missed opportunities. We should look up to God, our heavenly Father and then look into our own life. And what we have to do, we should do it now.
There might not be much time to lose.