Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Why - Not What

The Law is more concerned with why we do what we do than simply with what we do.

Consider the giving of an offering. Is this a good thing - is it good to give to the Church? Well... why did you give it. If it is an offering of love for the good of others and the support of the preaching of God's Word, yes, it is a good thing. If by giving to the Church you are hoping to acquire fame and glory for yourself - you have received your reward (i.e. it ain't a good thing). If you give because you feel guilty and the gift is an attempt to lessen your guilt - again, not a good thing. It becomes an idolatrous gift.

Why is important.

Likewise - is it a bad thing to kill? We even have the commandment - thou shall not kill. Well, why do you kill? Are you killing because you are angry and annoyed with someone who is cruel to you? Not good. Are you a soldier who is exercising lawful orders for the defense of others? That is something else entirely.

What doesn't tell you the story - why does.

This is because it is not what goes into the Body that defiles it, but what comes out of the heart. It is not enough to say "This is good, that is bad - follow this and you will do right" - why is important.

Is it good to observe the Sabbath? Sure. But it is good to pull your son out of a well, even on the Sabbath. And simply kicking up your feet, "resting" with NFL pregame stuff in the morning is not "rescuing your son". And, if you observe the Sabbath, not because you know you are a sinner in need of God, but rather because you are a good person who follows the Law - it is in fact self-centered wickedness of the highest sort.

We cannot simply say "This is good, that is not" - we must consider why something is done. Otherwise we will become hypocrites who think we worship God with our works while our hearts are far from Him.


Norman Teigen said...

I haven't read you for a time. My bad, my loss. I appreciate your well-written and timely conceived recent posts.

Phillip said...

This again brings me to the point I've repeated tried and failed to bring up, double effect. Killing is wrong. Actions that lead to someone dieing, not necessarily so.

Rev. Eric J Brown said...


That is a perspective or tact that Rome takes that is ultimately unsatisfying. If I am a soldier - I may have to kill - and someone telling me, "No, you didn't really kill - you just fired your weapon to protect your squadmates" is hallow and false.

War is a tragic necessity sometimes. To try and tell soldiers that they aren't really killing is just an attempt to salve the conscience by saying that nothing horrendous really happens. That isn't true. War is hell - don't try to soft paint it or sugarcoat it. It happens in a sinful world. If you are called upon to serve - serve as best you can - but don't sugarcoat or soft sell your actions. Rather, do your duty, then ask God for forgiveness for wherever you erred, and then rejoice in His forgiveness.

Anonymous said...

Unfortunately I find that whatever comes out of me is defiled. Even when i give my offering, which I'm pleased to do, I also feel the tinge of my sin saying "ahh, but you could have spent that money here, here, or here". Then i confess that i'm a sinner and receive the assurance in the sacrament that even that sin has been forgiven.

When it comes to contraception I tend to agree with you. However, in the past we used contraception because I was unemployed with no insurance. Now that we are trying and haven't conceived for some time I can't help but think its some sort of consequence of the previous decision. Again, what comes out of me is defiled and I'm forced to look back again at the cross and seek the forgiveness, which thankfully, is so freely offered.

Rev. Eric J Brown said...

To anonymous:

You are quite right when you say whatever comes out of me is defiled - therefore in all things, our entire lives are to be ones of repentance, where we never take pride in our own work, but rather trust in Christ Jesus and His love for us.

As for contraception (which wasn't the point of this post, but I think it's going to be referred to for a while) - I think you are giving into a bit of superstitious cause and effect there (unless there was some physical consequence, but I find that highly unlikely). Is God a petty, vindictive God that holds grudges, or is He merciful, doing what is best for you? He is merciful, and you and yours will be given children when God wills. He saw fit to not give while you were unemployed and uninsured - who knows what the future holds.

But do not let yourself be burdened. Care for your spouse, delight in the love that God has shown to you each as individuals and together as a family - how ever big or small your family ends up being.

(I say this because if my wife and I try and it is slow in coming, I know I will be hit with similar feelings - I am a Cubs fan and prone to superstition. But I then would need, as you do now, to be reminded again and again of God's love and mercy. And He does indeed love both you and your spouse.)

Anonymous said...

Just for clarity's sake do you mean when instead of if?

"(if) my wife and I try and it is slow in coming"

Rev. Eric J Brown said...

I say if because I do not know if things will be slow in coming *when* my wife and I try. The if is tied to the difficulties in becoming pregnant.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for clarifying. I just didn't see that in the sentence structure so I was curious.


Anonymous said...

I agree that we can't say there is an exact correlation between someone using contraceptives and then later having a hard time conceiving. I want to be clear on that.

I think we CAN say that it illustrates that WE are NOT in control. It is the LORD who gives life. We can interfere and hinder things, but we cannot just make a baby whenever we want.

Chuck Awesome

Rev. Eric J Brown said...

True - but our will is not incidental to a child either. Nor was it supposed to be.

Anonymous said...

No one said it was. But nowhere does Scripture teach our will should be actively involved in hindering children either.

Chuck Awesome

Rev. Eric J Brown said...

Ah, yes, but where does Scripture condemn not seeking more children? The example of Onan - well, that is a specific case, and if you are called upon legally to provide your sister in law with an heir - so do.

This is the point. Scripture is clear when it teaches that Children are a blessing. I agree. I think any thought or view that treats children as not a blessing to be false and unbiblical.

However, at what point in Scripture are we told that we must strive after any specific first article blessing? Are we told we must seek marriage and that it is wrong to avoid it? No. Are we told that we must seek more wealth and that it is wrong to avoid it? No. Are we told we must have larger homes or more food and that it is wrong not to seek these things? No.

We are not to fear any blessing. There are many that are present in our lives. But in your life, you will chose between blessings.

Do you go to the Seminary and seek those blessings, or do you get higher playing employment elsewhere? I say you are free either way - just be careful in your reasoning why.

Do you marry gal X or do you remain single? Is one the will of God and the other not? No, on this you are free. If you marry, then God has joined you together. If you remain single, God grant you strength in chastity.

A blessing is simply a blessing. It is a good thing that we can turn into an idol. It is something that we are to be moderate with - neither despise nor over-stating the importance of. And we live our lives in freedom, enjoying the blessings we have - seeking after the ones we in our freedom prefer but receiving whatever the Lord chooses to give.

Yes - we plan - but we plan saying, "If the Lord wills". James 4:13-17 is great on this, and as what James 4:11-12 teaches, I'm going to be quite hesitant to lambaste anyone's plans and say that they *must* seek other blessings.

Ask if they despise or denigrate - that's one thing. Tell them what they must do - that's something else entirely.