Grace, mercy, and peace be unto you from God our Father and
from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, Amen.
One of the first things that you and I remember getting
caught at and punished duly by our parents was telling a lie. But probably the
second one was probably taking something that wasn’t yours, whether it was a
friend’s, whether it was your sister’s or brother’s, whether it was someone
from down the street. And the motive behind taking was that you like what they
had, you didn’t have what they had, and you could come up with some reason why
you deserve what they had, and they didn’t necessarily need it. And it becomes
more crass as we grow older possibly when we said, “Well I was going to
give it back to you sooner or later.” We just kind of forgot about giving
But isn’t it interesting the great amount of words that our
Lord spends in this Gospel reading which is from the Sermon on the Mount
regarding possessions in this life? I mean a great amount, and how He keeps
casting this in two different lights…the things of this world that God will
provide, and the things that God alone wants us to seek, which He also provides
but came at a much greater cost, the cost of His Son about whom we read in the
Old Testament reading from Isaiah. It is interesting indeed.
I’m sure Pastor Neumann and other seasoned veterans of the
Cross can tell you stories of families that are torn asunder upon the death of
the last parent where there is inheritance or possessions to be distributed
among the siblings. And it doesn’t always have to be money. It’s that specific pocketknife,
or that .22 rifle, or maybe that broach or that ring or necklace, or the
toolbox. And all of a sudden something that they’ve never mentioned, never had
any care for, never even made note of becomes penultimate…that you have
to have that thing, and families are torn asunder.
Well lest we think we are above that, we ought to wait and
see. If you have already experienced about that which I am describing, then you
know how real it is. How interesting indeed then that when our Lord teaches us
the perfect prayer, there is only one petition that has anything to do with the
seventh commandment, and that is “Give us this day our daily bread.” Daily
bread. And yet think of the amount of time you and I spend in prayer to God
about those earthly matters, those possessions, those things.
Well then note how we give gifts when we give gifts. We give
gifts and then we watch to see how they handle the gift that we gave. If they
don’t use it in the manner and in the very means in which we gave it, then we
are upset with them having given them that gift! That is not a gift! Gifts
don’t have strings, unless they’re something other, and that is usually what
It even happens when that plate gets passed in this church
and other churches, and we wonder, Are they using the money in the manner in
which I think they should use my money? Whose money? For that matter, have
I used my own money, let alone the church, have I used my money in a manner
that is godly all the time? And have I used my money that I haven’t given to
the church when I could have, should have, and ought to have…? And as you can
see, the seventh commandment does plunge deep within us all.
Luther’s second half to the meaning, which is always such a
profound part of all of his commandment meanings, the first half is the
obvious. We should not steal anything from anybody. It’s the second half that
really does bite us because we can claim we have not done anybody wrong by
taking it from them, but have we always been willing to give to someone else,
and not when they deserve it? That is another matter indeed, for we could give
wisely with God’s gifts, as if His giving us gifts is wise indeed, my goodness,
how do we handle those gifts that He gives us? Not always so wisely, and yet we
worry and are spun up, and pray about it, and stew about it, ulcers about it.
It even affects our moods.
And then another event happens in people’s lives. They get
older, and we who are wanting to give them a gift are stumped as to what to
give them because they have everything. And we forget sometimes the most
important gift we can give them…kindness, encouragement, praiseworthy words,
mercy, and grace.
How hypocritical indeed are we because we want to value and
honor ourselves as not being thieves, but we’re willing to steal someone’s
honor with talking about them, but not to their face. Or if to their face, “we’re
just being honest!” That is like honesty with a club. It’s still honesty,
but it sure does come at a greater [slap!] than gentleness. Yes we love
to pride ourselves on many attributes, and they’re our standards that we love
to pride ourselves on, and not God’s.
In serving our neighbor with our words, which is what the
eighth commandment is all about, it’s also stealing, stealing someone’s honor
or reputation. And you all have read the stories and have heard the stories and
have been a part of those stories when someone misconstrues you and
paints you in a certain light, and it’s almost irreparable. And those
are words. Indeed.
He spends a great amount of time on the things of this
world, and it’s oftentimes the things of this world that gets us to be a little
upset or envious, or however we wish to say it, and we speak other things about
other people. We’re not happy for them. We’re not pleased God has given them
those gifts. We begrudge the fact that the Giver gave gifts to someone who
doesn’t seem to be worthy of such gifts and doesn’t seem to be handling the
same. Think about how we talk about people. We all talk about people…their
choices, their deserving or not deserving such gifts. And all the while, God is
still calling us to not bear false witness.
We love for people to explain everything in the kindest way
about our behaviors, and our idiosyncrasies, and our quirkiness, but do we not
also give the same to others for their idiosyncrasies, and their quirkiness,
and their oddities? Oh, we have to have a standard! Well according to that text
in the Old Testament, the standard was meted out, and it was given, but it
wasn’t given to you. That standard of justice was given to the One crucified
about whom Isaiah wrote, the innocent Lamb of God whose forgiveness we drink
deeply at, and are misers about always giving it out to others, especially the
We wish to receive all of His bountiful gifts, but we don’t
always wish to give them out to someone else because we don’t want to aid and
abet bad behavior. And yet a sinless God giving gifts to sinful people could
also be construed as aiding and abetting sin could it not?
Fear not, little flock. It is your Father’s good pleasure to
give you the kingdom, but the kingdom has no value or worth in this world by
the world’s standard, hence why we gather here to be reminded of such treasures
that await us and that are ours now.
Why would He say, “Sell your possessions and give to
the needy”? Why would He say, “Provide yourselves with money bags
that do not grow old with a treasure in the heavens that does not fail, where
no thief approaches, no moth destroys”? Exactly that. Because He is a
gracious and loving God who according to the world’s standard foolishly
punished an innocent man, God in the flesh, Christ Jesus for guilty as sin people
who steal and who bear false witness. For what purpose? To create His children,
His Church, and to call them by His name, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
In the name of the One who has died for you and rose again,
The peace of God which passes all understanding keep your
hearts and your minds on Christ Jesus to life everlasting. Amen.