Lectionary Homily for the 18th Sunday after Pentecost

Originally published at: Lectionary Homily for the 18th Sunday after Pentecost | Confident.Faith

  • Numbers 11:4–6, 10–16, & 24–29
  • Psalm 104:27–35
  • James 5:1–20
  • Mark 9:38–50

Wealth is a blessing, but it is also a test. Will you be faithful with what God has given you? Or will the corrosion — the idleness — of your wealth testify against you at the Judgement? Do you trust in your wealth or do you trust in God? To trust in your wealth is to set it up in your heart as idol — as your god. For that in which you place your trust and to which you look for good is truly your god.

But what can wealth actually buy? A new house, a fast car, and many other such things. There are men with enough wealth that their yachts have smaller yachts moored inside them, helipads for excursions, and entire theaters. ‘Fool, tonight your soul is required of you!’ They will take none of it with them, but their excesses will surely testify against them. As will the words of those who defend such things testify against them.

Your wealth is not yours — you do not own or deserve a single penny. All you have comes from and belongs to God. The God Who can demand your soul certainly has dominion over your wealth. Just ask Job in Whose hands our material goods rest. Job’s faith is praised because it was steadfast and because he was faithful with much and with little. The poor widow still tithed.

And what does Scripture say about tithing? Yes, certainly, we are — as Christians — free to determine how much we will give (n.b., how much, not if), but we must not ignore the words of Scripture. Not only does God condemn the Israelites for not tithing, He calls them robbers. Further, God — here — invites us to test Him. He challenges us: If we faithfully tithe, He will bless us. The faithful nation receives God’s blessings and gifts; the faithless nation receives the wages of sin. One need not be a prophet to discern the sort of nation in which we live today.

We are richly blessed, certainly, but our wealth has become for us a snare and we are spiritually bankrupt. Or do you think that we live in a faithful nation? We are more decadent than Imperial Rome at her height. We sacrifice more children than all of Canaan combined. We are more depraved than Sodom and Gomorrah before the fire from Heaven erased their evil from the Earth. The Amorites took four hundred years for their wickedness to be complete; if nothing else, we are efficient — our wickedness will surely be complete before we hit three hundred years.

Are we really such fools that we think God will simply overlook our sins, our manifest crimes, our deep and abiding evil? Yes, if we repent, God, in His infinite mercy and grace, will forgive us. But we do not repent — we are a nation of prideful, high-handed sinners. The entire calendar is slowly being taken over by celebrations of sexual degeneracy, and even pastors — let alone laity — seem unwilling merely to voice Scriptural truth. There is an ongoing — and worsening — epidemic of transsexualism, and the Church is largely silent. Aborted fetal tissue is used for medical experimentation and drug production, and the Church is largely silent. Those who fail to condemn evil become, thereby, complicit in the evil.

If these are not the true End Times, then it will surely take a miracle to salvage the shipwrecked and sinking vessel that we call a country. Do we have a single faithful man in a position of power in the left-hand kingdom? Not a single one comes to mind. Perhaps there is a faithful man serving as city dogcatcher somewhere. Nations often receive the rulers they deserve.

You may think: ‘What about freedom — of religion, et cetera — and liberty?’ You wicked servant. Who empowered you to relax the commands of God? ‘But surely,’ you may think, ‘there is a separation of Church and State?’ You illegitimate child of Satan and his ‘Enlightenment’. Where does Scripture separate the kingdoms in such a fashion? Where do the Confessions do so? The authors and signers of our symbolic books certainly did not believe in or advance such a separation, for it is wholly foreign to Scripture. Our Confession was presented to the Emperor by princes.

Faithful rulers are a great blessing from God. Yet we find ourselves ruled by demons. In no small part, we have done this to ourselves. What battlefield have we not abandoned? For nearly a century, now, we have ceded the left-hand kingdom to evil men. Have we suddenly become Anabaptists? And the right-hand Kingdom fares hardly better. We are surrounded, inundated, overrun by heretics and the heterodox. Sects and schismatics alike proliferate, and we even export them abroad. We are, as a nation, a font of idolatry, false doctrine, faulty theology, and enthusiasm. And our own Synod is not immune.

"[I]f the foundations are destroyed, / what can the righteous do?" A great many Christians have, historically, met deaths that the world would consider untimely. You should expect nothing better than martyrdom, and you should — with Job — thank and praise God in all circumstances. We have — in Christ and His Passion — already won the war, but we will not win every battle. But you need not worry, for the God Who created you from nothing and recreated you in the waters of Holy Baptism with His Word will just as easily raise the saint who goes to the lions or to the fire as the one who dies peacefully in his bed and is buried.

We live in a fallen world, and it is seemingly occupied, at present, with attempting to find the nadir, but, of course, there is no bottom, no floor when it comes to sin. Things can always get worse. But they can also get better. We are called to make things better. Run the race to the end, serve faithfully, and hear Christ’s words: ‘Well done, good and faithful servant.’

As Lutherans, we know better than to fall for the Anabaptist lies of quietism, pacifism, and the avoidance of public offices. If Christians do not occupy public offices, then surely someone else will. We are the Church Militant. We are Christ’s body. It is incumbent upon us — it is our duty — to advance the Kingdom. Those who grow up in a Christian nation are — much like those who grow up in a Christian home — more likely to remain in the faith. Christ crucified for sinners is the heart of our faith — His blood washes us white as snow. But it may be our blood He uses to advance the Kingdom. May we not be found wanting.