“What shall we do?” When I hear this question, it always reminds me of Acts 2:38. After all it sets up Acts 2:38:
“When the people heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the other apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?” (τί ποιήσωμεν;) Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins.” (Acts 2:37–38)
So what we generally hear as the answer to this question is that people need to be baptized. However, if Luke is consistent, he is much more interested in the repenting side of the equation. And he has some outcomes we tend to minimize or not mention at all as we prepare people for baptism. Allow me to demonstrate.
Surprisingly the question occurs more than once in Luke-Acts. And it appears to be thematic for Luke.
The question first appears in Luke 3 as a response to John the Baptist’s preaching. John preached, “The ax is already at the root of the trees, and every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire. The crowd responded, “What should we do then?” John’s answer undoubtedly caught his listeners off guard
Anyone who has two shirts should share with the one who has none, and anyone who has food should do the same.
Again, in the very same context (3:12), tax collectors who came for baptism and asked, “Teacher, “what should we do?”
Don’t collect any more than you are required to.
Yet, again and still the same context (3:14), soldiers coming for baptism also asked, “What shall we do?”
Don’t extort money and don’t accuse people falsely—be content with your pay.
In each case, people are called on to repent relative to how they handle their stuff and the way they take stuff from others.
The questions at the beginning of Luke’s Gospel appears to parallel the same question at the beginning of Acts. John preached at the beginning of the Gospel; Peter at the beginning of Acts. They both called on people to repent. They both prepared people for baptism.
Perhaps, given Luke‘s interest to show how repenting has an impact on how we handle our stuff, Luke might have the same interest in Acts. In Acts, the people show that they repented by being baptism—the relationship between repenting and baptism is a topic for a later discussion—and by taking on other behaviours such as sharing their resources in common, including selling property to meet the needs of others (2:44–45; 4:32, 34–35). So as in Luke so also in Acts, repenting involves our stuff and how we might get our stuff.
So what should we do? Repent—and share your stuff and not take more than you need! Perhaps this teaching should be restored to what we tell people preparing to be baptized.