“For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.” (Luke 14:11)
In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. In the Collect, we ask that God would help us to withstand the temptations of the devil. One of the greatest temptations of the devil is the idea that we must climb the ladder to get to the top, so to speak. We must seize power, freedom, wealth, and the like. We must create our own honor. The devil said it best to the first woman: “Take the fruit. Seize the wisdom that God is withholding from you. Become as great as God Himself!”
Notice that if you are seizing, then you are not receiving. A gift is not something earned or taken. It is possible that God was withholding some wisdom from Adam and Eve, intending to give it to them at the proper time. However, they did not allow God to give them good gifts, because they seized what they coveted. They tried to make themselves great. Thus, God was cheated of the opportunity of giving them greatness.
This is the point that Jesus is trying to make. If you are at the bottom, then God can elevate you. If you have nothing, God can give you everything. If you are not earning or taking, then God can give freely.
God desires to give every good and perfect gift to all sinners. So, what is He to do with those who are desperately climbing and selfishly seizing? He knocks them down with the Law. He empties their hands with a word of condemnation. Those who think they are at the top are pushed over by the uncompromising commandments and fall to the bottom. And that act of condemnation is an act of mercy. At the bottom, sinners can find Christ! He humbled Himself and went to the very bottom, so that, when the Father exalted Him, He could carry us up to the top with Him.
In our Gospel lesson, Jesus warns that the day will come when God will humble the wicked and won’t bring them up again. They will fall, this time into the lake of fire (Revelation 20:15). Our Lord doesn’t want that to happen. So, in the meantime He does His alien work of humbling sinners, so that He can do His proper work—justifying and exalting them! In the Name + of Jesus. Amen.
Lord, we implore You, grant Your people grace to withstand the temptations of the devil and with pure hearts and minds to follow You, the only God; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen. (Collect for the 17th Sunday after Trinity)
-Pastor Alexander Lange is pastor of Holy Cross Lutheran Church in Albany, Oregon.
Audio Reflections Speaker: Rev. Duane Bamsch
Study Christ’s words on the cross to see how you can show more Christlike grace in your life. Perfect for group or individual study, each chapter has a Q&A at the end, and the back of the book includes a leader guide. Available now from Concordia Publishing House.