(by Daniel King, Sr.)
"And soldiers also asked him saying, And we, what must we do? And he said unto them, Exhort from no man by violence, neither accuse anyone wrongfully; and be content with your wages" (Luke 3:14).
In Luke's brief summary of John the Baptist's preaching, he offers several tiny snapshots of circumstances with John's moralizing response. This is one of those. It is pointed at the unique situation of soldiers in the ancient world. They carried the weapons, were trained in fighting techniques, and often had experience with bloodletting. They, therefore, found themselves in a situation suited to abuse. Extortion, false accusation, and demands for outlandish wage increases through strong-arm tactics were recurrent problems in the relations between the public and their "protectors." John advised these men, however, not to abuse their power, but to act in the interest of justice in spite of their position.
All three of the exhortations of the wilderness prophet are important, but it is our intent to explore the third one in particular: "And be content with your wages…" Although admittedly, these men were in a position different from ours, in that they could "muscle" themselves into a salary increase, still none of us is immune from the temptation to which John alludes. Albeit, contentment is needed in more areas than just this one:
- Be content with such things as you have. Because the Lord is going to take care of us, we do not need to worry over what the future may bring to us financially. We can be confident that His providence will furnish our needs: "Let your conversation be without covetousness; and be content with such things as ye have: for he hath said, I will never leave thee, not forsake thee" (Hebrews 13:5). Like those soldiers to whom John addressed his admonition, we need to develop a mindset of contentment, but our most thorny problem is lack of faith (Matthew 6:30). Paul said that the greatest gain in life is not a financial one, but a spiritual one: "But godliness with contentment is great gain" (1 Timothy 6:6).
- Be content with your station in life. This is not to say that we ought not to try to improve upon our general situation, only that we need to develop a mentality which breeds happiness in every situation. Paul penned the following words from Roman imprisonment. "Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therein to be content" (Philippians 4:11). Many folks spend their days in sheer misery because they cannot get the job they want or break into the career area they have their heart set upon, improve their standing in the community, or be accepted by the right crowd, etc. God might grant unto us more of the good things of life if we could only learn to appreciate and be content with what we now have!
- Be content to offer the Lord simple service. All of us who love God would yearn for the chance to accomplish some great thing in His service. Most of us will never be handed the staff of Moses, the sling of David or the wisdom of Solomon. Instead, we will be asked to perform a thousand small and inconspicuous acts of love and service daily. They will never bring us the plaudits of the crowd nor will they be much noticed by those around us. But they are what the Lord requires, humble service: "Wherewith shall I come before Jehovah, and bow myself before the high God?... Will Jehovah be pleased with thousands of rams, or with ten thousands of rivers of oil?... He hath showed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth Jehovah require of thee, but to do justly, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with thy God?" (Micah 6:6-8).
- Be content with your chosen partner in life. When two people had taken their vows before God and man, there was a time when, at least in general, that settled the business of "courting" and "dating." Not any more. Many people today, even Christians, continue to "shop around" long after the vows are said. The sacred promise which they made before God as heavenly witness (see Malachi 2:14) means almost nothing to them. Be content with the husband or wife of your youth. Do so for the sake of your conscience, your children, your family, your influence, not to mention the future home of your soul.