Vol. IX — No. 8 February 25, 1968
Thus saith the Lord, Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom, neither let the mighty man glory in his might, let not the rich man glory in his riches: But let him that glorieth glory in this, that he understandeth and knoweth me, that I am the Lord which exercise loving-kindness, judgment, and righteousness, in the earth: For in these things I delight, saith the Lord
In Christ Jesus, who would have us make Him our glory, Fellow Redeemed:
No one likes to be deceived. If we are deceived by a merchant in regard to the merchandise that he sells us, we are likely to shop elsewhere the next time. If a politician deceives us with all kinds of campaign promises that are promptly forgotten after the election, we are apt to switch our loyalty and vote for another candidate in the next election. At the present moment our own government is experiencing a crisis in what is called the “credibility gap.” Many citizens feel that they are being deceived in regard to the war. People just don’t like to be deceived.
There is, however, something worse than being deceived by another. That is being deceived by one’s self. To a certain extent we all tend to fool ourselves, to deceive ourselves, to lie about ourselves to ourselves. If this human weakness becomes dominant in a person’s life, that person is mentally ill and needs help.
It is because of this natural tendency towards self-deception, which is a part of all of us, that the old Greeks regarded self-knowledge as one of the highest forms of wisdom. “Know thyself” was the cry of the Greek philosophers. An English poet expressed this injunction in the form of a longing: “Oh that someone the power would give us To see ourselves as others see us.” Another person’s evaluation of us may be quite different from our own evaluation of ourselves because sometimes we may be afraid to take a good, hard, honest look at ourselves.
But it’s necessary to do just that sometimes—to take an unprejudiced look at ourselves. We would help each one do that this morning on the basis of these words of Jeremiah. There is a need for such a candid self-examination because we may well be deceiving ourselves concerning that which is vital to our eternal salvation. All of you here this morning are most likely either members of this Christian congregation or members of some other Christian congregation. All of us surely confess ourselves to be Christians. But are we truly and actually children of God? It’s quite possible to be a member of a Christian congregation without being a member of the Body of Christ. It is also quite possible to deceive others—to pretend to be what we in fact may not be. Are you what you profess to be? The only one, besides your God, who can give answer to that question is you yourself. We would help you answer that question by asking you to ask yourself another question and then answer it:
“Thus saith the Lord, Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom, neither let the mighty man glory in his might, let not the rich man glory in his riches.” Wisdom, might, riches—these have been the objects of man’s strivings since the beginning of time. But you may think: “These goals lie out of our reach because we are just average people.” Don’t evade your self-examination on that ground, for wisdom, might and riches are all relative, and so they may well be the goals of any and every person on earth.
“Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom!” What was the bait that Satan dangled before the eyes of Eve? Was it not the promise of wisdom? “God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil.” The possibility of being as wise as God proved stronger even than the natural state of holiness and righteousness in which God had created our first parents. What was it that caused the Pharisees at the time of Christ to reject Him as a class? It was their glorying, their boasting, in their own knowledge of the Law. They were so blinded by their study and supposed knowledge of the will of God by their imagined ability to keep that Law that they were conditioned to reject Christ’s offer of grace. They Were guilty of that which the Lord expressly forbids—glorying in their own wisdom, their supposed spiritual wisdom of the Law of God.
Come down to the present. For more than a Century now the battle has raged between science and religion. That isn’t exact, for the battle actually has raged between scientific theory and the wisdom of God revealed in the Bible. So many scientists glory in their own wisdom, their own theories, especially in regard to the origin of the universe and of man. They are so much in love with their own wisdom that they simply reject God’s wisdom revealed in His Word as just human mythology.
How is it with you? It is so easy to say, “I believe the Bible. I go by what the Bible says”—until the Bible tells you something you don’t happen to like. Then come the, “Yes, but’s.” Then the glorying in one’s own wisdom begins to pop up and out. Do you accept the Bible just as long as it agrees with what you think personally? Do you say, “I believe the Bible, but I reject what the Bible says about the position of women in the Church or the relationship of woman to man in marriage.” Do you claim to be a good Christian but then refuse to sever your connections with some organization that promotes and practices idolatry by making the confession of Jesus Christ optional, whereas Scripture makes the confession of Christ absolutely necessary for life and salvation? Do you glory in your own wisdom whenever you hear or read something in the Bible that conflicts with your personal desires and wishes. Ask yourself and give answer: What do you glory in?—God’s wisdom or your own wisdom.
“Neither let the mighty man glory in his might.” One of the causes of war has always been the thirst for the glory of power. What moves men to throw their hat in the political ring and seek, especially high public office? It’s the thirst for power. What are we witnessing now in our own country but a struggle for power—black power, white power, power for a minority, power for the majority, federal power, state power, local power. The whole world seeks power, and no individual in the world is immune to the lust for power.
Think of it on our every day level. The bully on the playground glories in his power. Children in a classroom who find that they can disrupt and disturb the learning process in the room and unsettle the teachers—glory in that power. They think they really are something. Employers who bully their employees; employees who threaten their employers—both glory in their power. How about you teenage young people? If you rebel against your parents, against your teachers, against any and everyone in authority—do you realize that you are victims of one of Satan’s tried and tested means of misleading people. You’re glorying in your power and might. Power corrupts—on all levels! That’s why Jesus said, “Blessed are the meek!” Has the quest for power, has the use and misuse of power led you into a rut of sin that may well be threatening to destroy your faith in Jesus Christ? Ask yourself this question before it becomes too late. For he who glories in his power and might is racing towards disaster. The first are always last in the Kingdom.
“Let not the rich man glory in his riches!” It is so natural and so easy for a rich man to do just this that the Lord warns against. After the rich young man left Jesus sorrowfully, the Lord Jesus made this statement to His disciples, “Verily I say unto you, That a rich man shall hardly—with difficulty—enter into the kingdom of heaven. And again I say unto you, It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God.” Matthew l9:23-24.
But again, let us not imagine that the danger only threatens those who are already rich. It is not wealth itself that is the evil, but rather the influence that wealth or anticipated or hoped for or longed for wealth can have and does have upon the individual. St. Paul warns, “They that will be rich— that crave riches, that seek after riches—fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and hurtful lusts, which drown men in destruction and perdition. For the love of money—not money itself—is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.” I Timothy 6:9-10.
How is it with you? Is having the financial ability to go out and buy what you want—is that very important to you? Does it make you feel good? Does it make you feel superior? Ask yourself whether you are glorying in your financial condition. Do you feel a need to “keep up with the Joneses,” as the saying goes? Do you feel that you must have as good a home as your friends, or better? Do you feel that your home must be furnished as well or better than those of your relatives and friends? Does your car have to be a late model or better than your friends? If you are answering “yes” to these questions, then very likely you are guilty of glorying in your riches. That’s dangerous! It may well mean that even though you have risen with the congregation to confess your faith in the God of your salvation, you actually are worshiping Mammon secretly in your heart and in your life. Christian churches have their pews filled with Mammon worshipers who claim to be and who appear to be and who believe themselves to be children of God, but who may well in fact be deceiving themselves. Check yourself, for self-deception in this matter may prove fatal one day.
“But let him that glorieth glory in this, that he understandeth and knoweth me, that I am the Lord which exercise lovingkindness, judgment, and righteousness, in the earth: for in these things I delight, saith the Lord.” We are to be glorying in the Spirit—given gift of insight and understanding as to how the Lord God is running things in history and on earth. That understanding and knowledge is something that is to effect our whole being—our thinking, our emotional life, our will and determination.
Have you ever thought of what a select group we really are? All about us we See the world in a mess. Man against man—the old, old story. We know the cause, for we know and believe the account our God has given us in Genesis 3. We know, we believe, We trust the lovingkindness of our God who saw the mess man made for himself and who then went about providing a solution for man so that he could be saved from his own self-made mess. God’s lovingkindness took the form of a promise—a most extraordinary promise. That promise involved God’s giving man the opposite of what he deserves. It involved the sacrificing by God of His own Son for a race of rebels. It even involved this that God would have to forsake His own Son because He wanted to be able to accept sinful man. Do you glory in knowing and believing these things? Do you and I glory in being among the select minority that does know and believe these things? Or do we just take all this for granted, as though it were of small consequence and of no great importance?
Our God is exercising judgment and righteousness in this world. Nations fall and rise, individuals are blessed or damned eternally according to His judgment and righteousness. All of our God’s lovingkindness, His judgments and His righteousness revolve about and center in Christ Jesus. He’s the key to it all. He who rejects Jesus Christ has forfeited and turned his back upon the lovingkindness of the Lord and has invoked upon himself a judgment unto condemnation. Do you know this? Do you believe this? Do you glory in these things? If so, you are a child of God. If not, you are deceiving yourself. The flesh of each one of us just naturally cleaves to and glories in wisdom, might and riches while it rejects the Lord who exercises lovingkindness, judgment and righteousness. Let us take up arms against this fifth column within us. Let us crucify the flesh. Let us pray God for grace and mercy to glorify in the God who exercises all lovingkindness, judgment and righteousness in and through Christ Jesus. For then only are we children of that God. Amen.
Ministry by Mail is a weekly publication of the Church of the Lutheran Confession. Subscription and staff information may be found online at www.clclutheran.org/ministrybymail.
All scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the King James Version.