Supporting the Living Temple of God

Pentecost 24 Saturday

Luke 19:8

“Zacchaeus, however, stood and said to the Lord, “Look, Lord, half of my possessions I give to the poor.””

The gospel that is spirit and life indicates that the temple should be consecrated to God–not the temple made out of stone and timber and covered with shingles; rather, he says that the salvation has come to the house that is a son of Abraham. And as much as human vanity would be seduced toward external physical buildings, the gospel would contrariwise urge us to recognize the true temple of God so that those who belong to Christ would always “hear the voice of their Shepherd,” John 10:16, and pay no attention to the outward manifold masks of church consecrations, confusing them with God genuine sanctification…It is a highly unpopular office to be a preacher; for it does not bring home much
income. Preaching the gospel only earns you little money. Yet if you show up once as a bishop and consecrate a church, you can make a lot of money and a great living. It would be just if we shed tears about being in such great error that no one dares to speak the truth these days. We are all afraid; we all act hypocritically just so we do not lose our income by preaching against error–instead of rather fearing him who says: “He who denies me before men will also be denied before God’s angels,” Luke 12:9. It is true, we must have churches and temples to hear God’s Word and receive the sacraments there. Yet it is a foolish work to think that we built a house for God so that he might hear us in that temple and not also elsewhere. We should thank God that he has promised to hear us everywhere, but let us not force the vast temple of God into a narrow place and catch God with a short end while heaven and earth cannot contain him. Woe to you, shameful unbelief!…Everything is topsy-turvy: A simple priest or chaplain consecrates and sanctifies the true temple of God, while the bishop consecrates the other temple made of timber and stones–we celebrate the latter but not the former. For the former is God’s work that must be nothing before the world and be regarded as insignificant. Yet what ever the world comes up with is precious and glorious before the world. But before God, it is worth nothing…The whole world is exhorted to give money to the dead temple lest they forget, so that stone and timber stay pretty their painted pictures are maintained. But God’s living temple is not mentioned with a single word. No one sets up his will to benefit the poor. We neglect them and let them suffer want. For it is about God’s commandment and God’s doing; it also does not look impressive before the world. Yet what men contrive is kept and inculcated with all earnestness; here people are willing and give while they can. Zacchaeus, however, would rather make his will, half of his possessions, so as to benefit the true temple of God; for he too was the living temple of God to whom salvation had come, in whom Christ’s grace dwelt. Yet we who are dead only care about things that are dead and spend our money on stones and timber; for we are harder than stones. It is time for us to repent; there will be no time to repent later. As long as we have temples where we can receive God’s grace without giving him anything in return, let us be content…God does not need our possessions and decorations.

St. Louis ed., 11:2424-2428.

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