[And John said to them], “Bear fruits worthy of repentance.”…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.” —Luke 3:8-11
Repentance involves the entire person, the head, the heart and the hands. The word in Greek literally means to “think differently afterwards” and signifies a change of thinking that leads to a change of heart that ultimately leads to a change in behavior. It was not enough, John said to the multitudes who came to be baptized, to step into the water. Repentance needed to be accompanied by a change in life; there needed to be fruit that was born of repentance and baptism.
It is interesting that in Luke’s gospel when the people ask what this fruit looked like, all three of John’s responses were economic in nature. Fruit worthy of repentance involved the one who had two coats sharing one with someone who had none (v. 11). Fruit worthy of repentance, for tax collectors, was not to overcharge people when collecting taxes (v. 13). And for soldiers they were not to extort money by falsely accusing people, and they were to be content with their pay (v. 14).
These were not a comprehensive list, but an interesting list, nonetheless. If you and I are seeking to live as those who are repentant sinners—as those who wish to live for God—then we’ll share with those in need, we’ll be fair in our business dealings and we’ll be content with our pay.
My experience is that people who live this way—who are generous and giving, who seek to be honest and fair, and who are not focused on the constant yearning for more—are happier in life and usually more successful. Who do you admire more, people who are generous or people who are greedy? Who would you rather do business with, someone who is only looking out for themselves or someone who has your best interests at heart? Who would you rather have as a friend, someone who is never content and who slanders others, or someone who is content with what they have and speaks well of others?
Reed is one of those guys. He’s a banker and a member of the church I serve. He’s one of a thousand people I know like him. He carries his success with humility. He is genuinely interested in his clients and puts their needs before his own. And if he saw someone who needed a coat he’d give it without being asked. He’s not perfect, but he reflects to me the economic fruit of repentance John called for.
Are you producing the fruits of repentance? Are you regularly giving to help those in need? Are you fair and honest in all your business dealings? Do you speak well of others? And are you cultivating contentment with what you have?
Lord, help me to produce fruit in keeping with repentance. Help me to be generous, honest, and content with what I have. In Jesus’ name. Amen.
Check out the promotional video for The Way here: