I’d never noticed this before, but after reading this passage from Luke 3 on the Slacktivist blog, something dawned on me. First, the passage:
And the crowds asked [John the Baptist], “What then should we do?”
In reply he said to them, “Whoever has two coats must share with anyone who has none; and whoever has food must do likewise.”
Even tax-collectors came to be baptized, and they asked him, “Teacher, what should we do?”
He said to them, “Collect no more than the amount prescribed for you.”
Soldiers also asked him, “And we, what should we do?”
He said to them, “Do not extort money from anyone by threats or false accusation, and be satisfied with your wages.”
John had been preaching to the crowds to repent because the kingdom of heaven was at hand and God would soon begin to bring justice into the world. Naturally, this prompted the questions from the crowd, which apparently included some soldiers to whom John said to not rob people and be content with their wages.
And that’s when it hit me: if you want to follow Jesus, then be content with what you’re making.
I’ve never heard a person say that their current salary is enough, especially in this economy. (I’m not saying they don’t exist, but I personally don’t know them.) Sometimes, you might hear a pastor talk about following the call of God in your life, even if that means going somewhere where you’d make far less money that you could if you stayed in your current job.
I don’t know how many people take that part of the sermon seriously. I’m pretty sure I’d have a rough time with it.
Be satisfied with your wages.
I don’t think John means that we should accept injustice when it comes to pay inequality. I think he means that people who are making what they deserve ought to thankful for what they have and to stop living a life in which you’re always looking for more and never content with what you have.
For the Roman soldiers, this meant no longer stealing from people to satisfy their greed.
What does it mean for us?
Right now, it probably means that you need to stop complaining about the fact that you never have enough money to do anything. “Anything” tends to mean going out to eat, to movies, taking road trips to the beach every other weekend, etc.
Maybe you think I’m being insensitive there, but hear me out. The fact that you refer to entertainment and not to necessities (such as paying for bills, medical insurance, and the like) means that you have at least enough money to support yourself. You’re not avoiding paying your bills because you have enough money to pay them. You might not have much more after you pay for them, but you have enough.
You’re in a much better position than a good number of people in this country. You’re in a much better position than millions upon millions of people on this planet. You’re much wealthier than most of the people who ever lived.
If you own a home or a car and aren’t constantly relying on the hospitality of strangers in order to get by, then you have more money than Jesus Christ ever did.
If Jesus could survive poverty without constantly whining about his lack of money, then maybe each of us could go at least one day with being content with what we have. And maybe, we’ll learn that life is about more than just getting more more more. Maybe true life, the kind that Jesus wants for us, involves being thankful for the things we have, even if they’re not very much of anything.