Bear fruits in keeping with repentance. And do not begin to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ For I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children for Abraham.9 Even now the axe is laid to the root of the trees. Every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.”
10 And the crowds asked him, “What then shall we do?”11 And he answered them, “Whoever has two tunicst 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.” (Lk 3:8-14)
When John the Baptist came baptizing, people in Israel were flocking to him. Some of whom were pharisees who, perhaps, saw baptism as a spiritual work along the lines of tithing and fasting. John challenges them in this. Baptism isn’t a work at all. It is a sign of God’s work to set you apart. It does not set you on a pedestal as a recognition of your spirituality. That at least some of the people (Matthew identifies these as the Pharisees) saw it this way. John challenges them to instead align their lives around this sign of their repentance. “Bear fruit in keeping with repentance” he says. That work is to treat others with compassion and justice. Fruit in keeping with repentance relieves rather than causes oppression.
Lord, help us as church be a people who bear fruit in keeping with repentance. Help us to be daily repentant and humble, that we might see and treat others better than ourselves.