Herrenhuter readings for Wednesday, the 25th February 2015

working

Woe to him that increaseth that which is not his! how long? (Habakuk 2:6 KJV)

St. Paul writes: “And that ye study to be quiet, and to do your own business, and to work with your own hands, as we commanded you.” (1Thessalonians 4:11 KJV)

St. Paul admonishes those lazy Thessalonians to work with their own hands and not to just twiddle their thumbs. This admonition was necessary as those Christians in this ancient city were living in the sure expectation of Christ’s imminent return in glory. So they gave up their daily chores and sat down waiting expectantly. Very much like those in Jerusalem, who sold everything they had, joined hands in fervent prayer waiting. Well, that’s not the thing for Christians to do. Even if we are to constantly pray, wake and be ready for Christ’s 2nd coming, we still ought to go about our business, work with our hands and for a living. That’s why Luther has got quite a lot to say against begging and those making a general nuisance of themselves – despite being able to do positive service, helping, cleaning, building, repairing, farming, creating, counting etc.  St. Paul goes so far as to state this as a command. This is not just friendly advice. He doesn’t just leave it up to our discretion. No, rather he commands us to get up and work – even as we are expecting the coming of our Lord soon.

The prophet Habakuk scolds those, who go about adding goods, property and wealth to their belongings by wrongful means – stealing, fraud, extortion, daylight robbery, white-collar crime. Thereby he first of all acknowledges the right to property and in line with the 7th commandment: Thou shalt not steal! protects it against those, who covet it and would take in even though it’s not theirs and it’s not up for grabs. The ancient story of King Ahab murdering Naboth and subsequently taking over his cabbage patch just because he thought he could get away with murder and blatant robbery under the guise of legality and regal privileges shows this kind of falsehood and knavery. Luther explains this commandment in his Small Catechism: “We should fear and love God so that we do not take our neighbour’s money or possessions, or get them in any dishonest way, but help him to improve and protect his possessions and income.” (LSB 321) In the Large Catechism he then laments the fact, that in our world it is common practice to hang the small thieves, but to let the big ones run free. Well, the prophet Habakuk cries out: “How long?” How long shall this iniquity go on? And we’re sure to join in this lament, when we remember the terrible gangsterism of the banks, which left the world economy reeling even in our times – or if we recall landgraps of colonialism and neo-colonialism – or the Russian annexation of the Crimean peninsula and parts of E.Ukraine.

The Zulus have a proverb that goes something like this: “The stolen cow eats the own ones too!” This is very close to Luther’s idea shared in the Large Catechism that stolen money lets all money in the wallet/pocket disappear. God himself is judge over these things as the terrible end of king Ahab and his terrible queen Isabel goes to prove. Even if crooks and thieves seem to get away more than not, they still will face God’s judgement and punishment too. We should not fret about that so much, but leave that to God and his wise discernment, wrath and justice and for our own part work diligently and according to our calling there, where our service is needed most and where we are called and stationed to do so. Amen.

O God, My Faithful God by Johann Heermann:

O God, my faithful God,
True fountain ever flowing,
Without whom nothing is,
All perfect gifts bestowing:
Give me a healthy frame,
And may I have within
A conscience free from blame,
A soul unstained by sin.

Give me the strength to do
With ready heart and willing
Whatever you command,
My calling here fulfilling.
Help me do what I should
With all my might, and bless
The outcome for my good,
For you must give success.

Keep me from saying words
That later need recalling;
Guard me lest idle speech
May from my lips be falling;
But when within my place
I must and ought to speak,
Then to my words give grace
Lest I offend the weak.

When dangers gather round,
Oh, keep me calm and fearless;
Help me to bear the cross
When life seems dark and cheerless;
Help me, as you have taught,
To love both great and small
And by your Spirit’s might
To live at peace with all.

Hymn # 371 from Lutheran Worship Author: Ahasverus Fritsch
Tune: Was Frag Ich Nach Der Welt 1st Published in: 1630

About Wilhelm Weber jr

Rector of the Lutheran Theological Seminary in Tshwane
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