Modern preachers often speak in vague generalities lest they offend anyone. How easy it is to preach, “God wants us to do what is right!” True and false Christians alike will say “Amen” to such preaching. Many preachers also find it quite easy to continually harp on the scandalous sins of the world, avoiding any mention of similar sins within the church. They, for example, might rage against pornography, but dare not mention the R-rated and immoral videos and DVDs that are viewed and even collected by many of their parishioners. The fear of man has snared them.
John, however, didn’t hesitate to preach specifically. Luke reports:
And the multitudes were questioning him, saying, “Then what shall we do?” And he would answer and say to them, “Let the man who has two tunics share with him who has none; and let him who has food do likewise.” And some tax-gatherers also came to be baptized, and they said to him, “Teacher, what shall we do?” And he said to them, “Collect no more than what you have been ordered to.” And some soldiers were questioning him, saying, “And what about us, what shall we do?” And he said to them, “Do not take money from anyone by force, or accuse anyone falsely, and be content with your wages” (Luke 3:10-14).
It is interesting that five of the six specific directives John gave had something to do with money or material things. John was not afraid to preach about stewardship as it relates to the golden rule and the second greatest commandment. Neither did John wait several years until the new “believers” were ready for such “heavy” concepts. He believed that it was impossible to serve God and mammon, and so stewardship was of primary importance from the very beginning.
This brings up one other point. John did not major in the minors, continually harping on dress codes and other issues of holiness related to outward appearance. He focused on “the weightier provisions of the law” (Matt. 23:23). He knew that what is most important is loving our neighbors as ourselves and treating others just as we want to be treated. That means sharing food and clothing with those who lack such basic necessities, dealing honestly with others, and being content with what we have.
This was a seventh quality that endeared John to Jesus: He preached not in vague generalities, but cited specific things people should do to please God, even things related to stewardship. And, he focused on what was most important.