10 And the crowds asked him, “What then shall we do?” 11 And he answered them, “Whoever has two tunics is to share with him who has none, and whoever has food is to do likewise.” 12 Tax collectors also came to be baptized and said to him, “Teacher, what shall we do?” 13 And he said to them, “Collect no more than you are authorized to do.” 14 Soldiers also asked him, “And we, what shall we do?” And he said to them, “Do not extort money from anyone by threats or by false accusation, and be content with your wages.”
Remember that the people that were following John the Baptist were just told that they are not guaranteed to enter heaven just because of their ancestry, they attend church, or who their parents are. There are many instructions that John gave to us through His ministry here on Earth. It is vital we takes these lessons and apply them to our lives. In these verses John references two specific careers, as well as people as a whole.
Tax collectors in that day were given a certain amount they were to collect. Anything above and beyond that they collected was their wage. This was a desired job by many because of the amount of money they were able to make. John addresses this with advice, “collect no more than you are authorized to do.” It is very important to look at the context of this because it can be misconstrued. This does not mean that the Tax collector cannot make any money for his family. It means that we need to be reasonable with what we are requiring. If the government is requiring a tax then pay the tax. If there is more that is necessary to pay for those who collect the tax then so be it. But if you are collecting and hindering those who you are collecting from, then you need to reevaluate your motivations.
Soldiers asked something similar, “And we, what shall we do?” John simply replied “Do no extort money from anyone by threats or by false accusations, and be content with your wages.” This would seem like common sense, but it was not in this period! The military had a lot of power. They were the force behind the leaders for the Roman Empire. But, again, this can also apply to us. If we are in a position of power then we are not to abuse that!
Again, these people were just told that their heritage does not guarantee them fellowship with the Lord. This is what they desired and thought they had through who they were as a people. They are confused and ask what they should do. John the Baptist says to share. Give to those in need. If I have extra food or clothing and someone is struggling, then provide for that person. There are many people who work hard and make a lot of money. Then there are others who work very hard and make very little money; some to the point of not being able to feed their family. If that is the case and you want to know the Lord’s will, here it is! Provide for those families if you have the means.
When we are searching for who the Lord is we are given direction. He will not leave us to stray for long. These people wanted to follow John because he was clearly sent from the Lord. They wanted to follow the Lord, most simply did not know how. John lays this out for them. This was laid out, however, in the Old Testament commandments! When Jesus was asked what the greatest commandment is, Jesus replied “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself” Luke 10:27. These instructions He has given in Luke 3:10-14 are specific ways to accomplish the Love the Lord deserves. Love His people as you love yourself and He will be honored. Isn’t that our goal?