And the crowds asked him, ‘What then should we do?’ In reply he said to them, ‘Whoever has two coats must share with anyone who has none; and whoever has food must do likewise.’ Even tax-collectors came to be baptized, and they asked him, ‘Teacher, what should we do?’ He said to them, ‘Collect no more than the amount prescribed for you.’ Soldiers also asked him, ‘And we, what should we do?’ He said to them, ‘Do not extort money from anyone by threats or false accusation, and be satisfied with your wages.’As the people were filled with expectation, and all were questioning in their hearts concerning John, whether he might be the Messiah, John answered all of them by saying, ‘I baptize you with water; but one who is more powerful than I is coming; I am not worthy to untie the thong of his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing-fork is in his hand, to clear his threshing-floor and to gather the wheat into his granary; but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.’
So, fairness is at the core of who we are, but how should we express this value in our daily lives?
Like many of us, I’m sure, I have more than one coat. Giving one of those coats away isn’t much to ask. Sharing, especially in order to make sure everyone has enough, makes sense. But what if it’s not just our coats, what if it’s our food, our money, our gifts, our time?
Being called to share everything, not just what we have spare is a tougher ask, but surely if we are to follow Christ then giving not only to the point that we feel we have given our fair share but to where are giving a little more, is right, but it can be hard. Freely we have ben given, so let us freely give.
We live in a world where, sadly, our success is measured by how much we have, and having more, even to excess, is held up almost as a virtue. Keeping all of our coats for ourselves (and probably stealing other people’s coats too) is how the world would have us live.
The words of John here turn those values on their head. We aren’t called to conform to the standards of this world; we’re called to be transformed into the likeness of Christ. John must have known that these words would get back to Herod, yet he boldly proclaimed this truth.
God measures our success by how fair we are, how much we uphold not just human justice, but Gospel justice, how we act, day in, day out to uphold and love not just those who share our faith and values, but all people.
So, are we the nourishing grain, or the superfluous chaff? And, by the way, who needs a coat? I’ve got one going spare.
Baptize us with your spirit, pour your living water on us. Refresh us and make us ready to serve. Help us to be as generous with others as you have been with us. Enable us to help to build the Kingdom you deserve Amen