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Trust and Believe
Grace to you and peace from God our Father, and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.
What does Jesus mean when He says, “You cannot serve God and mammon?” He means simply, “You shall have no other gods.” What does this mean, and how is it to be understood? What is to have a god? What is God? In simple terms, Martin Luther tells us, “A god is that to which we look for all good and in which we find refuge in every time of need. To have a god is nothing else than to trust and believe him with our whole heart.” That’s what it means to treat something like a god.
But it’s not enough to treat any old thing like a god. To trust in anything other than the Triune God is idolatry. To cling to anything other than the crucified Christ is to have a false god. For some, it’s money and financial security. For some, it’s that fancy automobile. For some, it’s the flashy new product from Apple, Inc. For some, it might even be church. For a pastor who at one time was forced out of his congregation, it could be doing anything to avoid causing offense to those who called him. My brothers and sisters in Christ, while items and money and church and the desire to serve are not sinful in and of themselves, every one of these things becomes an idol when you trust in them before the Triune God. Every one of them will surely and swiftly steal away the True Faith and the One True God to which it clings. And as Jesus tells you, “You cannot serve God and mammon.”
Let me give you an example. It’s no secret that our congregation is not as financially stable as it has been in past times. That fact alone would have made it an easy decision to join our sister congregation in a dual parish arrangement. But that was not the only way to ease the financial burden of supporting a pastor. We could turn part of the sanctuary into a coffee shop. We could build a swimming pool on the property. Or we could stop preaching the hard truth of God’s Word and start saying those things that would make us popular in the eyes of the world. It worked for Joel Osteen. The entryway of his house is bigger than our sanctuary! Some churches, even some that call themselves Lutheran—and yes, even some that are members of the Missouri Synod—have done those things. But none of those things serve the Gospel. None of those things confess faith solely in God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
To have true faith, one must not have mere trust and belief. It must be a right trust and a right belief. We must be all the more diligent to think always on the First Commandment, for faith and the Triune God belong together. In that commandment, God requires of you true faith and true trust in Him and Him alone, for He alone is the One True God. He would have you cling to Him. Whenever you suffer misfortune and distress, He wants you to run to Him, for He will satisfy you and help you out of every need. He wants you to look to Him for all good and find refuge in Him in every time of need. He wants you to believe him with your whole heart.
And He wants you to approach Him that way because it is His greatest desire to give you “all that you need to support this body and life.” It is written, “The righteous shall live by faith.” And this is most certainly true, for Jesus Christ our Lord always feared, loved, and trusted in God above all things. It was for precisely this reason that He was condemned to die: the Righteous for the unrighteous, the Holy for the unholy, the sinless for the sinful. He trusted in God above all things. He loved His neighbor as Himself—and even more so than Himself, for He did not hesitate to lay down His life for the very people who wanted Him dead, to douse you in the baptismal water and sacramental blood which poured from His side to make you holy. It is for His sake that our Father hears your prayers and gives you everything you need for this life and for eternal life.
Everything you have is a gift from our Father. Like any father, He wants you to have all good things, and He is gracious to give them to you. God has given you faith: faith which clings to Him alone; faith which uses His gifts for His worship and the service of your neighbor; faith which sustains you in times of trouble and trusts in Him above all things. In the name of the Father and of the Son (+) and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
The peace of God which passes all understanding will keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus always. Amen.