Seventeenth Sunday after Trinity
The Saviour says in the gospel of Luke that the scribes and Pharisees choose out the chief rooms or seats at the supper, as is the custom of the lords of the world.
Because of worldly honor they sit in the uppermost places at weddings and social functions; because of this worldly honor He rebukes the Pharisees and scribes. And we know assuredly that worldly honor is the same as it has been before. Whatever worldly honor bad caused the scribes and Pharisees to do in the Saviour's time, the same splendor he effects even now in those who are in the faith of the scribes and Pharisees. Worldly honor has certainly not become any less after the Saviour's death, but it has increased more when the world has become puffed up in its wisdom. The wise of the world have a greater wisdom and intellect now than in the Saviour's time, and the wiser they become in their own opinion, the greater they become in power and honor. Finally they become so great and honorable that they no longer need any God, not in heaven nor on the earth. But the peasants follow after the lords in that same foolishness. Although they do not have such a large intellect and wisdom as the lords of the world, nevertheless they have a greater arrogance and ignorance since they must imitate the habits of the lords in dress, in food, and in buildings. Some peasants become recognized by the world because of their riches, and some because of power. But the most foolish thing is that one ignorant peasant must imitate the habits of the lords in dress and behaviour as the Saviour already then rebuked the Pharisees for finery, with which they thought they would gain more honor. He also took the example of John, showing the people how far he was from finery, when He said to the people, "What went ye into the wilderness to see? A man clothed in soft raiment?" Did you go to see one fine lord of the world clothed in silk and Swedish broadcloth? Behold, said Jesus, "they that wear soft clothing are in kings' houses." In the king's palace there are fine lords, but the peasants already want to be in silks and Swedish broadcloth, as is the custom of the lords and ladies in the king's palace. Here already are such silk whores who formerly have not been found in the world, not even in palaces. Here already are such peasants in Swedish broadcloth that everyone who sees them thinks that they are great lords,before whom even the governor can bow down. Here already are such silk whores, as before in Herod's palace there was one royal whore because of whom John the Baptist lost his head. However, our foreparents were clothed in leather clothes which God Himself made for them.
Such things as these worldly honor has caused to come forth, and what will it even yet cause to come forth before the measure of sin will be fulfilled? Now when the scribes and Pharisees come to a wedding, they choose the uppermost places that they would presumably be seen by the world. And they have such great honor that they kill one another over one word which touches their honor. And who has given them honor? The lords of the world think that God has given them honor, and so also the respectable peasants think, that God has given them honor. But I think that the world and the devil have given them honor, since they have long since become honorless before God because they are all one generation of adulterers, as the Saviour says, "An evil and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign." When John saw such coming to him, he said, "Ye generation of vipers, who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come?" Has God now given honor to such ones? The god of the world certainly gives honor to the whores and thieves, just so that they put on a broadcloth robe and a silk kerchief on the head, and bow down well before the god of the world. The god of the world gives them quite the honor, especially to the respectable whiskey merchant and the temperate drunkards, and also to the meek whores and honest thieves, just so they deck themselves in finery and can drink well, curse and fight, commit adultery and steal. But Jesus said to the Jews, "How can you give honor to God who receive honor one from another?"
There now is the place which shows what great power the devil has received over men, when they receive honor one from another and leave God without honor. And there is not enough in that they receive honor from others when, for the sake of honor, they prepare feasts and invite the rich, who because of their possessions have become honored, so that they again would be invited in return. But also the devil shows his power in this, when he incites some to go to the law because of honor; because of honor he incites some to taste of devil's dung; some he, because of honor, incites to drink in competition and to curse in competition, and to fight in competition — especially this, that he incites them to run races, lift weights in competition, row in competition, harvest in competition, or do other work in competition, and because of that honor many have ruined their health in their youth. Has God given you honor when you went to drink in competition, to curse in competition, and to fight in competition? No doubt the god of the world will give you honor in hell, since you have served him here so faithfully. If it is true that God has given man honor, as the wise of the world think, then assuredly the god of this world will give the adulterous generation honor. And who has given the drunkard honor, when he begins to drink in competition. In the drunkard's estimation, he is the greatest hero who can stand to drink the most liquor. Has not the devil himself given the big drinker honor? Who has given a meek whore honor, when she weeps over her honor, lamenting that she is innocently barked at? It is also seen that the chief robbers weep over their honor when they are innocently barked at! Who has given such a one honor? Has God given the whores and thieves honor? No doubt that god who lives in the lower heaven has given such ones honor. But the Pharisees, who are not whores and thieves, who has given them honor, since they chose the uppermost seats at the weddings and synagogues? Who has given them honor, when they put on beautiful clothes, namely broad-cloth coats and silk kerchiefs and black boots? No doubt they should be acceptable to God in such finery, since they are very acceptable to the world and to the prince of the world. Nevertheless, John the Baptist could not preach repentance to the people in such clothes. Neither has the Saviour Himself traveled around the country in finery preaching. But the lords of the world and respectable peasants are bedecked in silk and broadcloth when they come to a wedding, so that they would be seen by the world. And the silk whores also come to church to show their finery and meekness to the world, but to the Christians they show their pass, with which they can freely travel in the kingdom of adultery.
These and other such honorable habits the devil of honor incites them to do, but that belief always remains with them, that God has given them honor.
We must more broadly consider: who has given people honor, when we have first prayed to the Lord of Glory, whom the respectable people have hung on the cursed tree, so that He who became honorless before the whole world because of those to whom the devil has given honor, would take away that false honor which is a great shame before God, that all would become honorless in the world and would give the devil back his honor. Hear, Lord of Glory, the sigh of the honorless ones, Our Father, etc.
The Gospel: Luke 14:1-14
In today's holy gospel the Lord of Glory counsels those who, for the honor of the devil, sit uppermost in social functions, for the reason that they hold themselves to be most honorable in the world. For that reason we must, through God's grace, observe, What does honor of the world effect, first in a natural person, and second in the awakened ones?
The First Consideration: What does honor of the world effect in the sorrowless state? In the sorrowless state, the honor of the world effects as Jesus has shown in the gospel, that respectable guests who keep themselves in high esteem choose the uppermost places in the synagogue or church and at social functions, through which they show that the devil has exalted them and made them to be respectable lords of the council. Many a lord of the world, because of honor, has become angry if he has not been asked to sit uppermost at the wedding table. And again many a one, because of honor, has become poor, wasted his own in vain social functions, and lived like lords, so that he would be honored by the world. And when his own substance has not sufficed, he has taken loans from here and there and lived like a lord on other's money. Finally because of vain honor he has become a beggar. Some, because of vain honor, have shot themselves; some have run away; some, because of vain honor, have ruined their health when they have wanted to be the first and best man in everything so that they would be praised by the world. But they have not believed, nevertheless, that honor is of the devil. And when a whore, because of honor of the world, kills her child, then the devil gives her that assurance that God has given her honor. Nor is it strange that the devil showed the Saviour all the honor of the world, since the great lords of the world go to visible death because of honor. Some lords of the world have such a great quest for honor that they care not for life or death, just so they gain honor. But it is still more strange that the devil of honor has killed many great lords. When their lust after honor has not become fulfilled, they have become sick over honor and have died. From that can be surmised what a terrible devil the honor of the world is, since it has killed so many great lords of the world. Not only in that way, that because of honor they have committed suicide, bat that honor can kill outright without a weapon and without a medium. It is more strange, and it has happened in that way as has just been said, that when the burning lust for honor has not become fulfilled, the lords of the world have died of sorrow. It has happened to many noted lords of the world, but the great lords of the world do not therefore believe that the devil has awakened such a burning lust for honor in them, but they have that faith that the quest for honor comes from God. Honor is, namely, a respectable devil, it is not so despicable as the devil of drunkenness. The devil of honor is not so vile as the devil of adultery, nor is the devil of honor so shameful as the devil of stealing, nor is it as black as the devil of envy, nor is the devil of honor so terrible as the devil of greed. All these, namely adultery, stealing, envy, hatred, greed, are still kept as sins by the world; but honor no one keeps to be a sin, but it is as beautiful before the world as an angel of light. And all want to gain that, namely kings, lords, peasants and beggars, if not in one way, then in another. For example, the devil of honor incited David to number the people, through which he committed a great sin before God. The devil of honor incited Herod to slay children in Bethlehem. The devil of honor incited that respectable whore to ask for the head of John on a charger. Said in a word, not one devil is so terrible as the honor of the world, although it is beautiful and respectable before the world. Honor incites the princes of the world to war, through which many thousands are killed. Honor incites some to go to the law. Honor incites whores to slay their children. Honor incites the drunkards to drink in competition, through which many a drunkard has died of liquor. Honor incites the young to wrestle through which many have ruined their health and become maimed. Because of honor many a snot-nosed brat wears Swedish broadcloth and a silver pipe in his mouth, although his poor parent is suffering hunger and cold. For the sake of honor, silk whores wear the dung of worms around their necks and on their heads.
These, and other such things, the devil effects in the unbelieving and sorrowless ones; it is one terrible devil, for it even kills that natural love which the Creator has planted between the children and the parents. Absalom wanted to buy the honor of the world with his parent's blood, and many a lord of the world drives his children away from his house and disinherits them just because of honor. Namely, when the children of such parents become whores or thieves, it so greatly hurts the parents' honor, that there is no more mercy in the parents' heart, no matter how the children become penitent. This is a terrible matter, and if the heavenly Parent had such great honor as some lords of the world do, then it would be impossible to think that even one of His children would be taken up into grace no matter how they would repent.
From where then have the wise of the world and all the lords of the world received that assurance that honor has a good effect in people, and that it has come from God? I think that they have taken the assurance from that, that the devil of honor has protected some respectable people from sin, as for example from fleshly adultery and from open and excessive drinking.
The Pharisee thanked God that he was not like other people, extortioners, unjust, or adulterers, but the Pharisee did not think that honor and selfrighteousness had protected him from those coarser sins. But he was in that faith that the God which is in heaven had protected him from sin, and so even now many a Pharisee thanks God that He has protected him from sin. But it is just the devil of honor which has protected some from adultery, stealing, drunkenness, cursing, and fighting; and from that all lords of the world have taken that faith that honor is one godly effect in man. But if this honorable god protects some from these coarser and more shameful sins, then certainly the same respectable god protects them from penitence and repentance. It certainly protects the Pharisee so that he does not become as foolish as the publican; and as the Pharisee always goes ahead of the publican into the church, he also goes ahead in social functions. He always sits in the uppermost seats in the synagogues; and also in social functions of the world he sits in the uppermost seats. And now the Pharisee has that kind of a belief that since he is first in the church and first in social functions, then he will also be given the first place of honor in the kingdom of heaven.
But it is heard in today's gospel that the host asks him who sits in the lowest seat to go up higher, but to him who takes the uppermost seat for himself in the synagogue and at social functions, the host says, "Give this man place." Go now, Pharisees, to sit uppermost at the wedding table, that you can receive honor from the world. Soon the host will say to you, "Friend, give this man place," who is now sitting in the lowest place, and then you must with shame go to take the lowest room. In that great supper you can sit in that place where the publicans now sit. But those wedding guests, who now have sat in the lowest seats, can hear this honorable word from the Host when the great Supper is held, "Friend, go up higher, and then shalt thou have worship in the presence of them that sit at meat with thee."
The Second Consideration; What does honor of the world effect in the awakened condition? Then honor is so cunning that he no longer incites an awakened one to like himself; he does not incite an awakened one to show off or carry finery; he does not incite him to sit at social functions of the world. But he often incites him to be ashamed and to hide the work of the Spirit of God. At first the awakened one has a great battle with honor before he is able to confess his sins. The honor of the world wants to entirely prevent that open confession of sins. There also the devil of greed comes to help the devil of honor, and the two, namely the devil of honor and the devil of greed, build a brush fence for the penitent one, which not one grace thief will climb over. The devil of honor preaches thus to the thief of grace, "You need not cry out your sins to the world," and the devil of greed adds this word, "If you cry out your sins to the world, then you will have to repay your evil deeds. You will first become honorless and besides all that, you will become poor."
Behind this brush fence all the grace thieves are now stuck, who do not want to cleanse their consciences but go straight to God. They think that God is merciful to them, although they do not want to repay their evil deeds or be reconciled with their neighbor, although we have so many places of the Scriptures which show that one must first be reconciled with his neighbor before a person can hope that he can receive his sins forgiven by God. And what pertains to confession of sins, first the book of Joshua shows how the whole congregation of Israel suffered injury because of one man who had stolen and hidden the stolen item. That man did not want to confess his theft before it came to light. And secondly, when people came to John the Baptist and asked for baptism, they confessed their sins. Was it a secret confession like the Catholics demand? All the grace thieves want to come into the kingdom of heaven with honor, and it is better, in their opinion, to be in hell than to be without honor in heaven. They do not think about this, that a time will come when all secret deeds will come to light, and that all grace thieves who do not want to become honorless before the world, must there become honorless before God and all the holy angels; and whosoever does not want to confess his sins before the Christians can there confess his sins before the devils. And whosoever does not want to repay his evil deeds, can eternally pay to the last mite.
But the place of honor is a strait place even to those whose awakened consciences force them to cry out their sins to the world, for Judas' conscience did not become appeased through this, that he confessed to the high priest, "I have sinned in that I have betrayed innocent blood." And although he even threw the ill-gotten money into the temple, he could not appease his conscience with that but it was a compulsion of the conscience that he had to do so. But in the matter of cleansing, Peter again shows the example that honor does not want to allow the penitent to go unto Jesus that Jesus could cleanse them, for self-righteousness and honor of the world incited Peter to oppose Jesus in that place where he should have allowed the Saviour to do with him as He wanted. Worldly honor put these words in Peter's mouth, "Thou shalt never wash my feet." Honor of the world gave Peter a false unworthiness through which Peter almost got left without cleansing.
Honor of the world works all these in the awakened, from which can be well surmised that the devil of honor of the world is no simple devil, but he is so many-sided and with many angles that not even the awakened ones can understand well all that this cunning and secretive enemy effects, for he changes himself into an angel of light as it happened with Peter. It is no wonder that the world does not know his effects to be terrible and horrible, for the devil of honor reveals itself to the world as an honorable man who wants nothing but good, and all his effects, according to the opinion of the world, are good, allowable and respectable, as though it had come from God. But even the awakened souls become deceived through honor of the world, who have not yet comprehended why the devil of honor forbids that open confession of sins and why he wants to prevent the penitent from reconciling with their neighbor, and why the devil of honor wants to prevent that cleansing which Jesus offers to them. It is just for that reason, so that the sins would remain unconfessed, that the conscience would remain uncleansed, that the feet would remain unwashed, that the sin would remain unforgiven until the time that there is no other way than what Judas finally realized, that he confessed his sins to the devil's priests who said, "See thou to that."
If the devil of honor had not been able to rule Judas' heart, without a doubt he would have confessed his sins to the disciples of Jesus, but Judas has that fear that his Christian honor would be brought to naught if he now confessed his sins to the disciples of Jesus. In that place honor wants to make a great war, when a person who has traveled in the school of Jesus for many years, and has made the other disciples believe that he is a true and faithful disciple of Jesus, when he must begin to confess to the other disciples that he is a betrayer, there honor takes a strong hold against it, that he would sooner go to hell than that he would cast his honor of a Christian behind him, and begin anew to strive and carry the cross.
This is an impossible place for Judas. The honor of a Christian is a high pinnacle of the temple from which it is not easy to come down when the devil has exalted one up there. It is also dangerous from both sides: if he confesses himself to be a betrayer, then all of the disciples of Jesus will push him out and his honor of a Christian would go to naught completely, but if he pretends, with hypocritical evasiveness like the serpent, in the company of the disciples of Jesus, then he can keep the Christian's honor yet for some time. But the Christian faith, which he carries until the time that the conscience awakens, just then comes to naught when he sees Jesus condemned. And just then can he see what the devil of honor has accomplished but penitence is too late. When he finally confesses his sins to such priests who are enemies of Jesus, they cannot comfort him, and although he then throws back the ill-gotten money, nevertheless he does not receive peace of conscience, but must go out and hang himself.
Thus has honor of the world made many thousand people unfortunate in time and in eternity; and all the same, the lords of the world say, "It is of God. God is the one who has given man honor." But it is seen from all his effects that he is one chief devil who is not easy to recognize, and that all who follow him become unfortunate in time and in eternity.
So Jesus now gives all the wedding guests that counsel, "Sit not down in the highest seat at the wedding table, but sit down in the lowest seat." That is, do not seek vain honor but give away the honor to the devil. Then he who has bidden you will say to you, "Friend, go up higher, then you will have worship in the presence of those who sit at meat with you." That is, you will receive honor from God when you first have sat in the lowest place in the world; that is, when you have given the honor of the world to the devil. But certainly Pharisees will not go sit in the lowest places, but they choose the uppermost places in the synagogues and at social functions, and therefore the host says to them: "Give this man place" and then they begin with shame to take the lowest place. When that great wedding day comes, then the host will say to those who now sit uppermost in the synagogues and in social functions, "Friend, give this man place," and so they will go with shame to sit lower, those who here Love the honor of the world. Amen.