“…The word of God came to John son of Zechariah in the wilderness. He went into all the region around the Jordan, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins, as it is written in the book of the words of the prophet Isaiah, ‘The voice of one crying out in the wilderness: “Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight. Every valley shall be filled, and every mountain and hill shall be made low, and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough ways made smooth; and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.”’… 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 to you.’ Soldiers also asked, ‘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.’” (Luke 3:2b-6; 10-14)
If you want to see what a revolution looks like, read and reread the passage of scripture above. What John the Baptizer proclaimed, and what Isaiah the Prophet proclaimed before him, was nothing short of total social revolution. Their vision was of a new world order in which equity would reign among individuals and nations, when there would be no poor, no needy, no hungry, no naked. In order to have such a world, there would also be no rich.
Most of us on the social justice side of things long for a world of equity. We talk about it, we organize around that goal, we gather with like-minded individuals to work out strategies for justice-making. But I wonder how many of us, really, would be comfortable with giving up some of what we have, systematically, so that others who don’t have the comforts we enjoy could get a leg up. The balance of power in a society will only change when those who have power voluntarily and willingly give that power up to those who have none. If revolutionary change comes by a violent storm from the underclass, the shift in power might change, but the new ruling class will exhibit the same ruthless attitude toward the new underclass that they themselves experienced. An eye for an eye will leave everyone blind.
However, if those with two coats give one up to those who have none, then the naked will be clothed and the one that had abundance will still have what is sufficient. If the one who has more food than they need gives to the one who is starving, they both will be taken care of. The issue comes when we think we need more than we actually need. We gather into barns our excess, without knowing that this very night our soul may be required of us (see Luke 12:13-21).
All people have something to share to others, but those of us who have an obvious excess have the most responsibility to share what we have with those who do not have. This is not a question about if the poor deserve help; there is no judgment about how they got to their station in life.
Read John’s words again and let it sink in that the point is not to scrutinize the poor, but to scrutinize your own possessions. And know that the only way the valley will ever be raised up is if the mountain is used as fill dirt.
Cody Nygard, Associate Pastor