MANILA, PHILIPPINES—What is repentance, and does it still matter? Luke 3 records John the Baptist’s message to religious people who wanted to be baptized. As usual, John boldly and unapologetically demanded repentance.
You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bear fruits in keeping with repentance. . . Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.
As was often the case when John (and Jesus and Paul) preached, the crowds not only got answers, they also walked away with questions. Here’s the big question prompted by John’s blunt call to repentance.
What shall we do? (Luke 3:10)
That’s always a good question to ask when one wants to repent.
As you read my summary paraphrase below, see if you can spot the common theme in John’s answer to their question about repentance.
Verse 11 Whoever has extra clothes and food, give to those who have none.
Verse 13 Collect no more taxes (money) than authorized.
Verse 14 Do not extort money and be content with your salary.
No matter the audience (tax collectors, soldiers, random people), the answer to their what shall we do question was basically the same: reject greed and embrace generosity.
At some point, real repentance will confront our greed and demand generosity. This might not always be the first step in repentance, but it will be a step or two or two thousand on the lifelong journey of walking with God.
I love the way this passage ends: So with many other exhortations he preached good news to the people. (Luke 3:18)
This passage describes repentance as rejecting greed and embracing a lifestyle of generosity. When John preached about repentance and generosity Luke said he preached good news to the people!
The message of repentance and the call to generosity is good news!