The message of John the Baptist was strong and clear, “Repent!” “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee form the coming wrath? Produce fruit in keeping with repentance!” There was no ambiguity.
Three different groups asked John what that looked like for them. “What should we do?”
To the crowds he told them that the man with two sets of clothes should share with the one who has none, and the one who has food should do the same.”
To the tax collectors he told them to not collect more than they were required. No skimming off the top as was the custom.
To the soldiers who were frustrated with their minimal paychecks he told them to stop using their position to justify extortion and accusing people falsely to get a few extra dollars, but rather to be content with their pay.
Bearing fruit means visible change. In particular it meant changing their relationship with money and their issue with greed. Money was a mirror that was reflecting them all and it wasn’t pretty. But it was an opportunity to repent, to change their ways. And this call to repentance still remains.
We seem to think we’re not like those scheming soldiers, government officials or nasty tax collectors. Or so we think. And yet how many of us keep things in storage in storage units, attics or basements year after year so we can have it for “some day” in the future? Can not God provide again later? Have you ever heard of someone cheating on taxes or justifying an action for selfish gain? Doesn’t every reality show teach us this is how you get ahead? And how many have been discontent with their pay and find ways to squeeze a few dollars extra from unjust means? Or even just grumbled against and slandering our employers and jobs?
“Repent!” John says, and “produce fruit in keeping with repentance.”