How to Make a Difference in the World Right Now
" … Every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire." "What should we do then?" the crowd asked.
Surrendering our lives to Jesus Christ means owning up to the deep, deep needs in our world. God is truly counting on us to be his hands and feet.
But, in the face of terrorism, racism, marital infidelity, sex trafficking, addiction, mental illness, and questions about climate change (just to name a few issues of our time), what can we possibly do to make a difference for good?
The answer is closer than you think.
Consider the people in the wilderness, listening to the impassioned and unapologetic accusations (Luke 3:7-9) of John the Baptist. The people know he is right. They have been lazy, and they have profited when others suffered. Each of them—including tax collectors and soldiers—responds with the same question: “What should we do?” (vs. 10, 12, 14).
Do you wonder the same thing when you watch the news, read a blog post, or scroll through your newsfeed? When faced with the world’s deepest need and brokenness, do you wonder, “What should I do?”
John’s answers to his questioners are helpful to us today:
- Share what you have (vs. 11). Do you have a platform, a sweater, a dollar, a guest room, an opportunity, a drink of water, or an hour of time that someone else needs but doesn’t have? Share it. Offer it up, with no expectations; no strings attached.
- Serve everyone fairly (vs. 13). Don’t play favorites. Don’t cut corners. Serve the poor and the people who get on your nerves exactly the same way you would serve your very closest friend. Don’t save your best only for those who can give you something in return.
- Stop striving for more than you need (vs. 15). Leave something for others. Consider downsizing. Turn off the water and the lights when you’re not using them. Shop locally. Ride your bike or walk when you can.
When we each make incremental adjustments to the way we share, serve, and store, our small changes add up. God uses our choices to make the way straight for the gospel and for the Kingdom of God.
But also remember this. The people listening in the wilderness wanted to change. They weren’t pointing fingers at others down the street or crowds in the latest news report. Standing on the banks of the Jordan River, the people realized their own deep, deep need to repent, and repentance has always been a necessary step toward astounding good.
FOR FURTHER REFLECTION: If you were in the wilderness, listening to John, what might you be thinking? Have you been lazy or profited from the suffering of others, such that you need to confess? What changes can you make in your sharing, serving, and striving?
PRAYER: Lord, I confess that often I’d rather not be bothered with the deep, deep needs of this world and the people whose perspectives and attitudes get on my nerves. I sometimes get confused and think getting to heaven is the most important thing you have in mind for me. Help me to be more mindful of those around me. Help me want to share, serve, and strive in ways that make a difference for good, right in the places where you lead me each day. Amen.
READ THE SCRIPTURE IN CONTEXT:
John said to the crowds coming out to be baptized by him, “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath? Produce fruit in keeping with repentance. And do not begin to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ For I tell you that out of these stones God can raise up children for Abraham. The ax is already at the root of the trees, and every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire.”
“What should we do then?” the crowd asked.
John answered, “Anyone who has two shirts should share with the one who has none, and anyone who has food should do the same.”
Even tax collectors came to be baptized. “Teacher,” they asked, “what should we do?”
“Don’t collect any more than you are required to,” he told them.
Then some soldiers asked him, “And what should we do?”
He replied, “Don’t extort money and don’t accuse people falsely—be content with your pay.”