In the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar--when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea, Herod tetrarch of Galilee, his brother Philip tetrarch of Iturea and Traconitis, and Lysanias tetrarch of Abilene-- during the high priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, the word of God came to John son of Zechariah in the desert. He went into all the country around the Jordan, preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. As is written in the book of the words of Isaiah the prophet: "A voice of one calling in the desert, 'Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for him. Every valley shall be filled in, every mountain and hill made low. The crooked roads shall become straight, the rough ways smooth. And all mankind will see God's salvation.'" 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, "The man with two tunics should share with him who has none, and the one who has food should do the same." Tax collectors also 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." The people were waiting expectantly and were all wondering in their hearts if John might possibly be the Christ. John answered them all, "I baptize you with water. But one more powerful than I will come, the thongs of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire. His winnowing fork is in his hand to clear his threshing floor and to gather the wheat into his barn, but he will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire." And with many other words John exhorted the people and preached the good news to them. But when John rebuked Herod the tetrarch because of Herodias, his brother's wife, and all the other evil things he had done, Herod added this to them all: He locked John up in prison.
John the Baptist (JTB) was an in your face kind of guy. A Mark Cuban-like person with good morals who is unafraid to tell it like it is. I mean, he called these people a "brood of vipers!" Can you imagine us telling visitors when they walked in the doors of our church that they were nothing more than a pit of wild and dangerous snakes? My guess is that our church wouldn't have many guests.
The thing that stands out to me in this text is a lesson which God has been teaching me over and over again. When the people were confronted with their hypocrisy and sin, they honestly asked JTB what they were to do. John's response? Go and enroll in the local seminary or Bible college and give your life to reaching the Bula Bula people of Northern Zimbabwe. Or that they should go and reread the Old Testament (This may actually help them some)-- NO! He doesn't tell them that they have to follow his teachings or read any books or enroll in the latest 12 week Beth Moore study. He tells them essentially to, "Start showing that you follow God, and stop pretending, or die... or get out... or give it up." As I think about this, I see that there are many people who claim to (and do) know a lot about God. They try to serve him and often take a holier-than-thou position on many issues. They're involved in 3 Bible Studies a week and you can find them in the same seat every Sunday. You'll never see them smoke a cigarette, drink a beer, or say a cuss word; and you'll never see them helping the poor and needy. John's question is this: "Where is your fruit."
The man who has two tunics should share with him who has none, and the one who has food should do the same.
True religion and the heart of Christianity isn't about knowledge... never has been. It is about loving God and loving people with all we have. Giving to the poor and needy is the true mark and the fruit of our relationship and commitment to Jesus. Don't believe me? Check out these additional texts.