Author: Brittany Fiscus-van Rossum
Reflection: v. 7, ‘you brood of vipers!’
You can really tell that John the Baptist isn’t one of those preachers overly concerned with offending people–he literally calls the crowd that has gathered to be baptized a bunch of snakes (to their faces, no less!), and then tells them how they have become too complacent in the ways they practice their religion. They need to change their ways, and they need to change them now! John isn’t pulling any punches and I admire his blatant sass. I also admire that John grounds his critique in issues of justice. He isn’t disagreeing with an ideology or a tradition, he isn’t hyper-focused on the correctness of a theological concept– his concern is with the lived practices of these God-followers. His concern is about matters of justice, equality, and how people are taking advantage of and overlooking the poor. John doesn’t just say ‘we need to do better!’ (though if you don’t hear that message for yourself in his words, perhaps you need to take another read), he also offers tangible examples of how to live more righteously. What is particularly great about John’s suggestions? They’re quite simple, really. If you have two of something (coats or extra food): share. This is a lesson I literally teach my four year old, so it can’t be that hard, right? What else does John suggest? Do not take more than you are supposed to–do not take more than what you need. Again, simple. Do not extort, do not take advantage of others. Be happy with your wages if they are fair–be satisfied with having enough of what you need so that others can have enough, too. John’s urgings are simple and doable. These are not suggestions for us to over-spiritualize and pretend that they do not apply to us. We need to share. We need to take less so that others can have enough. We need to not take advantage of others. We need to care about the welfare of those with less. We need to take John’s urgings for justice seriously or else we’re just a bunch of snakes pretending we know something about Jesus.
Prayer God of justice, help me to take justice seriously.