Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Soldier On

Luke 3:10-14 (ESV)
And the crowds asked him, "What then shall we do?" [11] And he answered them, "Whoever has two tunics is to share with him who has none, and whoever has food is to do likewise." [12] Tax collectors also came to be baptized and said to him, "Teacher, what shall we do?" [13] And he said to them, "Collect no more than you are authorized to do." [14] Soldiers also asked him, "And we, what shall we do?" And he said to them, "Do not extort money from anyone by threats or by false accusation, and be content with your wages."
“What then shall we do?” It is always the question to be asked. Most often we know the answer before we even ask it. First the crowds ask, and John gives a general answer along the lines of “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Share with them. If they have no clothing and you have more than you need share with them. The capitalist in me wants to argue that this is what I do when I fill my closet with cheaply made goods from China. Yes the sweatshop workers are underpaid, but it is better than not paying them at all.... Right. On the other hand, it is good to put pressure on companies to pay fair wages. Having them pull out all together is perhaps another story.
John gives better answers to the other two groups. I think this is important. He doesn’t tell either group to quit their jobs. There isn’t anything wrong with being a tax collector. There is something wrong when you use your influence as a tax collector to extort more than you should and line your own pockets.
Likewise Soldiering. John all but tells them to soldier on. He confronts them with abuses of their employment that were rather common in that day, but other than that, he says be content with your wages. Don’t be a dirty cop. Essentially that is what these soldiers were in times of peace, cops. There is nothing wrong with the job. Yes they had to kill their enemies, but soldiers can do this while maintaining love for their enemies and praying for them. Justice needs be done in this world despite love. It is a perversion of word love and the biblical concept to think that it should corrupt justice.
In the end though, knowing what we should do is hardly an antedote to doing what we know we shouldn’t. We want to live as peaceable a life as possible. We want to live in accord with God’s law. But knowing what we should do will never accomplish that goal. Sinners we are, we do is then sinfilled as it were, less than perfect, less than holy. And this is why we need Jesus everyday of our lives.

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