According to Luke 3, John the Baptist’s vocation was to be a voice in the wilderness calling people to “prepare the way of the Lord” through repentance, anticipating the “forgiveness of sins” and the arrival of the Age to come.
He warns people that they must “produce fruit in keeping with repentance” rather than rely on pedigree or belonging to the correct in-group.
Naturally, because repentance isn’t just feeling differently but acting differently, people asked “What should we do?” How to make this repentance concrete? What fruit would indicate we are participating in preparing for God’s salvation to arrive?
John the Baptist’s first answer to this question is economic redistribution: “Anyone who has two shirts should share with the one who has none, and anyone who has food to share should do the same.” He goes on to tell tax collectors and soldiers to stop practicing extortion and injustice.
Isn’t that striking? The kind of repentance that prepares a highway for God isn’t just a feeling of sorrow over personal wrongdoing. Repentance is concrete and embodied. Repentance is social and material. Repentance is political and economic.
In other words, biblical repentance that prepares the way of the Lord involves practicing social justice and redistributing wealth on behalf of the poor.