MAY THE WORDS OF MY MOUTH AND THE MEDITATION OF MY HEART BE ALWAYS ACCEPTABLE IN THY SIGHT OH LORD MY STRENGH AND MY REDEEMER.
What’s Work Got To Do With It
"John answered them, saying, I baptize with water; but there standeth one among you, whom ye know not; he it is, who is coming after me is preferred before me, whose shoe’s latchet I am not worthy to unloose,” St. John i. ?.
John the Baptist was what every true preacher and teacher ought to be – only a voice, a pointer to the King of the Jews. The last thing that he wanted anyone to do was to look at him; he wanted people to forget him and see only the work he was doing to prepare for the coming of the King.
The Pharisees where puzzled about one thing he was doing – what right had John to baptize? If he had been the Messiah, or even Elijah or the prophet, it might have made sense that he baptized. Ezekiel had said: ‘I will sprinkle clean water upon you, and you shall be clean’ (Ezekiel 36:25). Zechariah had said: ‘On that day a fountain shall be opened for the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem, to cleanse them from sin and impurity’ (Zechariah 13: 1). The Pharisees certainly understood the scripture but wondered who was John that he should baptize?
What made the matter still more strange was that baptism was not for the Jewish at all. It was incomers from other faiths, who were baptized. Jews were never baptized; they were God’s already and did not need to be washed. But Gentiles had to be washed in baptism. John was making Jews do what only Gentiles had to do. He was suggesting that the chosen people had to be cleansed. That was what John believed based on scripture. We know that by this time the baptism of Jesus had taken place at which John had recognized Jesus as the King of the Jews. So here John is saying again: ‘The King is coming. And, for his coming, you need to be cleansed as much as any Gentile. Prepare yourself for entry into the history of the King.’
John did not answer the Pharisees questions directly. Instead he said; ‘I am baptizing only with water; but there is one among you – you don’t recognize him – and I am not worthy to untie the straps of his shoes.’ To untie the straps of someone’s sandals was slaves’ work. There was a Rabbinic saying which said that a disciple might do for his master anything that a servant did, except to untie his sandals. That was too menial a service for a disciple to render. In other words what John said was: ‘One is coming whose slave I am not fit to be.’
John’s function was to be only the preparer of the way. Any greatness he had came from the greatness of the one whose coming he foretold. He is a good example of a man prepared to obliterate himself in order that Jesus Christ may be seen. He was only, as he saw it, a signpost pointing to Christ. John was the son of a Rabbi and therefore a Rabbi himself. He felt no entitlement because of his linage. He did not need the Pharisees approval of his work as the fore runner. He knew what had to be done, that it was hard work, that he could never quit and so he went about doing it. He believed that he was entitled to nothing, he was slave like, doing the work of preparing the way for the Messiah was reward enough in and of itself.
This country was built by men and women who stood up on their own like John. Imagine what it must have been like for the early settlers who loaded everything they owned onto a covered wagon and headed west in the hope that they would find a place to settle and call home. The founding principles of this country dictated that we all have the ability to earn prosperity through whatever means necessary within the law. The founders intended for this to be a nation where you were rewarded for your good behavior and for your hard work with success. They believed that goals and dreams could only be attained through hard work and a willingness to never quit. Imagine what would have happened to those early settlers if they quit the first time their wagon got stuck in mud or their route brought them to a seemingly impassable river. We might not have a country west of the Mississippi river if that had been their attitude. And there was no one who owed them safe passage. The army did not provide them with armed guards to protect them from thieves and attacks. They knew that success was not going to chase them down, they had to work hard for it and many lost their lives trying.
So much of our society today has become about what people are entitled to as opposed to what they have earned. As a result our society has moved from one of independence to one of dependence. There are record numbers of citizens and non-citizens on government assistance some of whom are using the system rather than taking responsibility for their own success. The entitlement mentality gripping America is destroying the fabric of the society that the founders intended. The culture of entitlement is a “you owe me” attitude. The problem is that an entitlement culture denies individual responsibility.
Entitlement is a perversion of reality. The reality is that no one owes us anything. Everything we have is a gift from God, right down to the food we eat and the air we breathe. When we take responsibility for everything we experience we are empowered and we have the power to effect change.
If we strive to better ourselves with gratitude and ambition, our personal achievements will replace our sense of entitlement with a sense of accomplishment. A sense of accomplishment is in our human nature. Expressing gratitude to God for everything in our lives, including the things that we would prefer to have been different, is powerful and empowering. We have the word of God to teach us, through examples like John the Baptist, how we are expected to live on this earth and we have the Holy Spirit to guide us along life’s winding path. There is no greater feeling than a sense of accomplishment for work done well and expression of our gratitude to God for the gift He has given us. This is how John lived his life to the end and how God expects us to live ours. Go forth and prosper with God at your side.
And now unto God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Ghost be ascribed all might, majesty, power and dominion as is most justly due this day; world without end. AMEN