CHECK YOUR ATTITUDE
Everyone with an arrogant attitude is a disgusting thing to the LORD. Be sure of this: that person will not go unpunished. Through steadfast love and faithfulness, iniquity is atoned for, and through the fear of the LORD a person turns away from evil. Proverbs 16:5-6
IF we ever think that we are pretty good people and that God is our peer or good buddy, we need to read the Book of Proverbs, which names the sins of men in plain terms, and follows the thread of iniquity that runs through even our best plans.
In his book Solomon catalogues the spectrum of sinful attitudes that infect us all. At the low end of the range there is the gullible person. He is untaught and ignorant of the things of God so he bumbles through life making one mistake after another, unable to serve God or man. Though he is not innocent in the sight of God as people sometimes suppose, he is the least harmful. Next is the lazy person, the one who thinks that the world owes him a living and expects other people to do his work for him. Solomon predicts that this person will suffer poverty and starvation and come to no better an end than the gullible man. There are other categories that the son of David indexes in his book as well: there is the fool, the stubborn fool, the complete fool and finally the arrogant person. He is the one who, by sinful blindness, places himself above God like Lucifer did and will receive the same judgment.
Which one of these people are you? Save the answer for private confession, but know this: that while we are all fools to one degree or another (depending on the day), there is only One who is wise, One who is merciful and faithful, the One who is greater than Solomon; Jesus Christ our dear Lord and God who gave His life to atone for the sins of the world.
What sins you may ask? Today’s epistle lesson gives us an example. In it St. Paul makes reference to an episode from Numbers chapter twenty-five in which God’s people were lured into worshipping the fertility gods of the surrounding nations. Their religious rituals consisted of gluttonous, drunken banquets, followed by unbridled orgies in which they gratified every desire of the flesh. For pagans to do such things is one thing, but it was altogether improper for the people of God to do the same: to eat the food that God gives without recognizing its source, giving of thanks, using its blessings to serve Him, and without perceiving the larger sacramental lesson: that every meal is a gift from God that should remind us of the holy communion we have with Christ in the sacrament, and of the everlasting banquet to which we were invited the hour we first believed, that is, the day we were baptized.
But the Old Adam asks: How can faith and baptism do such great things? Is not baptism simply ritualistic water? Is not faith merely a state of mind designed to help us get through the tough times? Not at all! Faith is the means by which we apprehend Christ and make all the benefits of His atonement our own, and faith is given to us as a gift in baptism. Without our Lord and His sacrifice these would be empty things, but they are not with Christ; quite the opposite indeed. The Father, whose love for His fallen creation is steadfast and immovable and whose faithfulness is bigger than our sin and whose “foolishness is wiser than the wisdom of men,” gave His Son to be the propitiation of our sins; to do what no man could do, and to go where no other could go. He took onto Himself our sinful pride, our foolishness, laziness, lust and rebellion, and made Himself responsible for all of our debts; a responsibility which led Him to indescribable suffering, shame, humility and death by crucifixion. The price our Lord paid for our sins was so terrifying that in the Garden of Gethsemane, as He prayed, and as He asked His closest friends to stay close by and not to leave Him, Scripture records that He sweat great drops of blood at the thought of the cup He was about to drink. We know that “man’s cruelty to man” produces undreamed of suffering in the world. Maybe you have seen it, experienced it, or been privy to it as part of your vocation, but no man ever suffered more than this Man. Why should the holy and innocent Son of God suffer so intensely, so intolerably? Because He was paying the price of the world’s iniquity, averting our doom, quelling the wrath of the Law and insuring our redemption and our glory.
As we learned about the folly of men in today’s epistle lesson, today’s “Parable of the Unjust Steward” presents with a wise man. Many people are uncomfortable with this parable because it appears as though the Lord is commending his dishonesty, but He is not. What He is praising by this story is a man who thinks ahead and makes intelligent plans to insure his future well-being. He uses an earthly example to teach the heavenly lesson: that we should apply our hearts to the wisdom of holy Scripture which makes us wise unto salvation by faith in Christ Jesus our Lord.
The business of living consumes us, our sinful desires drive us, and like Israel of old we are easily lured to fall in love with the world, with the moment, with life’s passing pleasures and to believe the world’s propaganda. As one Country Song says: I’m not here for a long time, I’m here for a good time. These so-called “good times” may salve our psyches and dull our pain for a moment, but they cannot satisfy our souls. They cannot give us divine confidence in the face of fear, or joy in the midst of sorrow. Only the Word of God and the wisdom which comes down from above can turn us from evil, teach us to pursue holiness, and finally bring us to a blessed end. Amen.
Rev. Dean Kavouras