Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Two tunics (Luke 3:11)

And he would answer and say to them, "The man who has two tunics is to share with him who has none; and he who has food is to do likewise." (Luke 3:11 NASB)

This is not my favorite verse. I'm telling you that right up front. I would much rather read "I will never leave you nor forsake you". Instead, for today, we are at the "what to do with two tunics" verse.

John's listeners were people who had spent a lifetime making sacrifices as payment for their sins and throwing a few coins in the offering as an extra gift. There was an order to it. A plan.

John emerged from the desert with something altogether different. He told them they needed more than a sacrifice. They needed a repentant heart. A changed heart.  It was much easier to just give up an animal. Forgiveness? Reconciliation? Repentance? Much harder, but essential for getting right with God.

It was not a familiar idea, and they asked John what they should do. What does this "bring forth fruits in keeping with repentance" look like? John's answer was startling. "If you have two tunics, give one to the man who has none..."  An extra tunic was a precious thing. We are accustomed to closets full of clothes. They were not. They were not giving away unused leftovers. It was something that mattered.

Why did John (the man wearing a camel hide) tell them to give away their extra tunic? First of all, generosity is a theme throughout Scripture. We are to be as open-handed with others as God is with us. Secondly, receiving from God requires open hands and open heart. When we cling so tightly to the stuff of this world, it's not only harder to cling to our Lord, it's harder to receive all He has for us. Extravagant giving requires that we look past our own life and recognize the needs around us.  It requires us to risk being uncomfortable as a result of our giving.

Maybe more important, extravagant giving requires us to recognize Who is in charge and who is not. We are not the source of everything we have.  No matter how hard we work nor how much money we make, God is ultimately the One who provides. It's all His, and when we share what He has given to us, we acknowledge that in a very tangible way. We take our eyes off ourselves and get them on others and on the Giver of all good gifts.

John was trying to help his listeners learn to live their lives in a way that matched up with the new-found repentance they claimed to have. Live like you mean it. That's what John was saying 2000 years ago and it's good advice for us today.

How many tunics are you holding?  Today, live like you believe the faith you claim. Let go and give.

Live like you mean it.