Mark 1:6 “John wore clothing made of camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey.”
John the Baptist’s lifestyle underlined his message. First there was his clothing. His camel’s hair garment was simple, inexpensive, and likely not so comfortable. It may not have been the latest in fashion, but it was tough and functional. It seems this camel’s hair garment was his only clothing.
It was also the way in which Old Testament prophets dressed. This wasn’t intended to draw attention to these men, though it did serve as a recognizable sign of their office. More like the robes pastors wear today, it was intended to dress them down and draw attention away from the man, to his message. The sameness of wearing one thing all the time kept people from focusing on the messenger’s taste in fashion. It directed their attention to the word instead.
Next, consider John’s diet. Locusts and wild honey hardly qualify as a gourmet feast. It calls to mind the line about eating bugs from the movie The Lion King, “slimy, yet satisfying.” There is some truth to that statement here, at least the “satisfying” part. Maybe you and I wouldn’t choose to eat this way, but John the Baptist received his daily bread. His food was simple, but it was enough. Even with such a humble diet, we might even say because of it, John was able to devote his full time to serving the Lord.
Do you think that John felt like he had enough? We don’t know whether he might have complained about his support in weaker moments, but the gospels give us no indication he did. We do know that God does not require us to live such an austere life. No one receives extra credit for it if we do. Jesus also lived humbly, but not like John the Baptist.
The value John the Baptist’s life for us is the message it delivers. His example calls us away from the love of this world. So many of the things we enjoy become obsessions, even false gods. John’s life shows that we can resist materialism. There are many things we can live without. God took care of John. John could serve the Lord and be happy in that service, though he didn’t have an impressive income, wife and children, fancy food or fashionable clothes. None of these things are necessary to know God’s love. None of these things are necessary to serve Christ faithfully.
John’s life also teaches faith. God can be trusted, not because he gives us what we want, but because he takes care of our needs. John the Baptist simply served the way the Lord asked, and he trusted that God would provide something to eat. His faith was not misplaced.
We can be certain that, when the Lord has called us into life’s deserts, he will provide for us as well. If he gave us his Son, he will certainly give us something to eat and something to wear. With such faith in God’s care, setting aside our love for worldly things, we look to Jesus as our greatest treasure, and we wait patiently for him to appear.