To Do Good We Must Be Good

Pentecost 18 Tuesday

Luke 16:9

“Make friends for yourselves by means of the unjust mammon so that they, when you suffer want, may receive you in the eternal booths.”

Some take this to mean that we must do something in order to become good. For, they say, here it says: Make friends for yourselves, and this means to do something…If they attack us in this way we must answer them. Above all, do not doubt that faith and love are the foundation, as you have always learned: Inwardly, we become good by faith; outwardly we demonstrate our faith by the works of love. For I have often said that Scripture talks about man in two ways: first, as the inner man; second, as the outward man. For Scripture must speak differently, just like when I talk about the foot, I cannot be talking about the nose. This is why Scripture talks about us as spirit, as it must stand before God by faith; there he lets his Word go forth to which we cling; then he lets his Spirit follow right along with the Word. In this way, the tree must be good first (Matthew 12:33)…No one can arrive at this goodness unless he has grace in his heart. If I am to make friends for myself by means of the mammon, I must first be good. Just keep these two things together: No bad tree can bear good fruit; and again: No good tree can bear bad fruit. Judge for yourself on this basis: If I am to do good and give away the mammon as a gift, I must be good in the heart; for God looks at the heart and evaluates the works accordingly. I only says this lest we drag the works into the heart; rather, let the heart be good first by faith so that the works may flow from it. Otherwise, you will do good to no one, even when you give something to someone, since it does not happen from the heart. It follows, then, that I must be good before I can do good. You do not start building a house from the outside in or from the roof down, but from the bottom up. This is why faith must be there first. This is the reason, then, that Scripture talks about us as outward men, as we walk among men in flesh and blood. Now, neither you nor I know that I am good in my heart. This is why I must make my faith certain both for myself and for the people and must do good to
the neighbor so that faith may show itself (2 Peter 1:10). Thus, the outward works are only signs of the faith within. The works do not make me good, but they indicate that I am good and testify that the faith in me is genuine. This is also how you must understand Scripture here: Give mammon to make friends for yourselves, that is, do good that your faith may become certain. This is how we must distinguish what pertains to the Spirit and what pertains to the fruit of the Spirit.

St. Louis ed., 11:1449-1451.

This entry was posted in Daily Devotions From the Writings of Martin Luther. Bookmark the permalink.