III. The Cause and Cure of Financial Laziness
What is the cause of the financial indolence so often observed among us?
This laziness proceeds out of the sinful flesh with which the Christians are still burdened. If the Christians were all spirit, they would do everything in financial matters that God requires of them; they would come running with their earthly goods, in order to place at the disposal of their Savior whatever He needed. They would be making continual inquiries as to whether the Savior could not use more of their possessions. But the flesh of the Christians is just as evil as that of the world, as Luther often reminds us. Surely, then, the works of the flesh must needs be destroyed, also the works of the miserly flesh. That, however, is difficult work and is never fully accomplished.
An Evil Custom
This laziness is the result of an evil custom. It is often an inheritance of state church conditions. In the state church, little or nothing was given for church purposes, because the state usually paid the expenses of church and school. We live in a land in which the Church is independent of the government, and we rejoice over this fact. But in giving for the Church, we conduct ourselves very much as if the Church were supported by the state. And this laziness does not always die out with the first generation, but is inherited, like other diseases, by the second and third generations.
A Special Delusion of the Devil
This laziness is the result of a special delusion of the devil. The devil constantly aims to make Christianity contemptible and to hinder the kingdom of Christ. He attains this object if he succeeds in preventing the Christians from giving for the Gospel. Oh, how the preaching of the Gospel has been impeded down to our own day, also among us, because the necessary earthly means were not forthcoming!
Unclearness in the Doctrine of Justification
Another underlying cause is unclearness in the doctrine of justification. It is thought to be harmful to the doctrine of the justification of the sinner without the deeds of the Law if good works are urged energetically and continually, and to insist especially also that the Christians should, above all things, serve the kingdom of Christ with their earthly goods. However, that is an erroneous opinion. The more earnestly we teach good works in a Christian manner, the more powerfully will we thereby always preach the Gospel. We bring forth good works not through the threats of the Law, but through the charm of the divine grace shown us in Christ Jesus. Luther says, as you well know: “Good works are done by heaven itself.” If we want to warm the hearts of our Christians to sanctification and good works, then we always do one thing first: We lift them up into heaven. We remind them of the fact that they have forgiveness of all their sins and heaven through Christ their Savior. If we remind the Christians of this, then they rejoice with exceeding joy, gratitude rises up in their hearts, [and] then they, too, would like to give their lives for their Savior. And when we tell them “For the present the Lord does not ask you to give up your life for Him. That may come later. But now the Lord asks you to give Him your colt, that He may use it for his gracious entry into the world,” then they are very happy and let Him have the colt and whatever He needs. Thus every Christian admonition to give becomes an inducement to preach the Gospel, fully, completely, and unconditionally.
– Continued from On Christian Stewardship: The Gifts of the Christians
By Francis Pieper
Translated by W. G. Polack