THE WEEK OF TRINITY IX – WEDNESDAY

LESSON: MATTHEW 12:33-37

“The good man out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil man out of his evil treasure produces evil; for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.” Luke 6:45

When Christ declares that we should make friends for ourselves by means of the unrighteous mammon, it is quite clear that He means that we should do good works, on the basis of which these friends will receive us into the eternal habitations (Luke 16:9).

This may sound rather strange to those who have been accustomed to the proclamation of salvation by faith alone. But there is nothing in this Gospel which conflicts with this proclamation. With a Christian, faith and love are everything. We are accounted righteous before God by faith alone; we prove or demonstrate this faith by works of love. I cannot perform any acts of piety unless God’s grace has previously taken possession of my heart. If I am to make friends for myself by means of the mammon of unrighteousness, I must first be accounted righteous before God.

Two facts hold good here; a bad tree cannot produce good fruit, and, contrariwise, a good tree cannot product bad fruit. The conclusion, then, is not so difficult. If I am to do good by my use of mammon, I must be truly righteous in my heart beforehand, for God looks at the heart; He regards my works according to the disposition of my heart. I point out these distinctions lest you attempt to force works into the heart.

Before I can do good works, I must be accounted righteous in God’s sight by faith in Christ. You do not build here from the outside inwards, nor do you start building from the roof. You commence with the foundation, and in things Christian this is faith.

SL 11:1450 (9-10)

PRAYER: Heavenly Father, it is faith and the imputation of Christ’s righteousness that forms the beginning of everything in us and our works that is really good in your sight and in the true interests of our neighbor. Preserve us in the faith which always rests and trusts in you alone, for Christ our Savior’s sake. Amen.

Editor’s note: No American Edition (AE) equivalent for today’s sermon excerpt exists at the time of this publication. For an alternate English translation of this sermon, see Lenker, Church Postil—Gospels, 4:291-301.