Now John wore a garment of camel’s hair and a leather belt around his waist, and his food was locusts and wild honey.
(Matthew 3:4 ESV)
Matthew provides us with some interesting information about John the Baptist today. We already learned that he lived in the wilderness, away from society [Matthew 3:1]. Today we get more of a glimpse into his lifestyle and purpose for living.
From this description of John’s clothing and diet we know he was very poor. Camel’s hair was woven into fabric by people who could not afford wool. Likewise, leather was not worn by people of means but by people who could not afford better.
Since he lived in the wilderness John did not have access to much food so he lived off of locusts and wild honey, which were plentiful and nutritious and would have cost nothing. Even today locusts are eaten by bedouins in the Middle East. The honey John ate was probably not bee honey as bees don’t live in the desert. It was most likely honey made from a fruit such as dates.
Conversely, the religious leaders at this time dressed and ate well and traveled in sophisticated social circles. They looked down upon people who were not like them. John’s intentional living was a rebuke of these leaders who claimed to know God but really didn’t. John’s lifestyle was also a rebuke of the materialism and economic framework of society in general.
We are all too apt to chase after possessions or success or money, all of which have their utility in society but none of which have any eternal significance. None of these things can save someone from the penalty of their sins [Romans 6:23], which is our greatest need.
John the Baptist dressed and lived strangely. His ministry was public speaking but he was far from polished. Nevertheless his life had meaning and purpose: to draw people away from the world, spiritually speaking, and into a relationship with God through His son, Jesus.
God still has this purpose for His children – those of us who have accepted Jesus’ death as necessary and complete for the forgiveness of our sins [John 1:12-13]. While God does not call anyone to life of asceticism – John the Baptist lived this way by choice – He does warn us against the temptation of materialism and worldly pleasures.
The religious leaders of the day did not draw people to God. They actually drew people away from Him by their lifestyle (and false teachings). Likewise, if a child of God is too tied to this world that person will not represent God well in this life.
John the Baptist did not own a home. He did not have lots of money. He associated with the poor, not the wealthy. He wasn’t interested in climbing the corporate ladder or driving the slickest car. His life was all about serving others by telling them of the necessity of repentance and forgiveness.
This is what our lives should be about too.
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