Saturday, September 01, 2007

Misers dragged into perdition?

"Christians are even tempted with the desire to grow rich. Merchants, in particular, are in great danger of turning misers. If they were not warned and admonished, they would be dragged into perdition as if caught in a snare, and would be lost forever."
C.F.W. Walther, The Proper Distinction Between Law and Gospel, p. 315

What are we to make of this statement from a man instrumental in founding the Lutheran Church, Missouri Synod, from a textbook on advice about sermon writing that is based on lectures he made from 1884 to 1885. Is he some 19th century loon who is expressing how he knows nothing of economics, is he expressing advocacy for some kind of big government program, or is he expressing a spiritual truth?

I would lean towards the latter. Some of this message about scraping and hoarding and penny-pinching and greed has a spiritual dimension beyond anything to do with legislation. I think this is exactly the big fix we're in that C.S. Lewis spoke of in Mere Christianity, that "Part of you really is on [God's] side and agrees with his disapproval of greed and trickery and exploitation." Walther is not saying that being rich or owing capital is bad, but I think he's saying the temptation to fall into greed and trickery and exploitation is something the church has called a sin, and unrepentant indulging in sin separates us from God. Fortunately Jesus' work on the cross has paid the price for our sins and is what brings us back to God. All this has nothing to do with what the government should do. The church has in the past acted to show how it has a message about what is going on spiritually behind the scenes. That's what preaching is about.

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