“The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all.” 2nd Corinthians 13:13. I would imagine we all remember our first paying job. I remember picking plums and peaches for Mr. Orvis Miller, who lived about a half mile up Two Notch Road. Road my bicycle up there. I think he paid me 50₵ an hour that first summer.The next year, I made 75₵ an hour. Hard work carrying full baskets of peaches across the orchard, sometimes four at the time—saved a trip.And when we worked at home growing up whether it was in the fields, or any of the other numerous things, we didn’t get paid at all except for the roof over our heads, food on the table, and clothes to wear, and those were some times hand me downs. Sometimes it’s good to be the oldest. And as we got older,perhaps we jokingly looked back and called it slave labor.But slavery is nothing to joke about. This country, as well as many others, experienced a time in their history when slavery was accepted as a way of life and apart of the economy. This certainly doesn’t make slavery right as a means of getting work done. But it was certainly accepted in Biblical times, especially during the NT time frame. Paul uses slavery and this way of life in the 6th chapter of Romans to get his point across about our addiction to sin and God’s gift of the good news of Jesus Christ.But to the point, Paul tells us that we are all slaves— we are all slaves to something and that’s where our commitment lies. We read in Genesis and Exodus how even the Israelites themselves were slaves in Egypt and how God led them across the Red Sea into freedom. But all through their 40-year journey to the promised land,the land of milk and honey, they kept looking back to the “fleshpots” of Egypt, the pots full of meat to eat. In Martin Luther’s Large Catechism, he writes concerning the first commandment: “You shall have no other gods.” the following:“A god is that which we look for all good and in which we find refuge in every time of need. To have a 1 god is nothing else than to trust and believe him with our whole heart.” This can be the one true God or an idol. The meaning of the commandment is this: “See to it that you let me alone be you God, and never seek another.” We all look for the good and for refuge in times of trouble. The problem is we often look in the wrong places. We race toward the material things. Many people think they have everything they need when they have money and property, in these things they trust and in them they brag so stubbornly and securely that they care for no one. Such people have a god—some call it mammon by name; it’s called money and possessions on which their lives are focused. Those who have money and property feel secure,happy, and fearless, as if they were sitting in the midst of paradise. On the other hand, even those who have nothing doubt and lose hope as if they have never heard of God. The desire to have wealth, to have more, clings to our very nature all the way to the grave. But money and property are not the only false gods. It can be things like power, honor, family,learning, knowledge, and wisdom;and the person trusts in them. So much so to that person it becomes a god, but not the one true God.We are to trust God alone and turn to him, expecting from him only good things. It is God who gives the body life, food, drink, health,protection, and peace. It is God who protects us from evil, and he saves and delivers us from evil when it happens.Now, before anyone concludes that we need not go to the doctor,nor be afraid of this COVID-19 pandemic, which continues to spread, we have to think about how God works, how he works through us and through ou neighbor. It is not that we sit on our hands and do nothing.All people have been put in the position of neighbors. We are neighbors to other people; other people are neighbors to us. They and we have received the command to do us all kinds of good. So we receive our blessings not from them, but from God through them. We are only the hands, the means through which God bestows all blessings. We receive our wellness from God through doctors and nurses. When we go to the grocery store, we receive God’s bounty through those who work there, the truck drivers who delivered, the manufacturers who produced it, the farmers who grew it. God works through his children, our neighbors all these material things are gifts from God and we must acknowledge everything as God’s gifts and thank him for them. That is the meaning of the first commandment.
Paul is asking us to make a choice—if we are slaves, who will be our master? Jesus told us that we can serve only one master. To love and serve God as this commandment requires is difficult, to say the least. And I question if it is fully and truly possible. We are humans. We sin. It’s almost as if it’s our job. It’s a daily struggle. In the Confession of Sins this morning, we said, “we confess that we are captive (in the previous hymnal, the word was bondage) to sin and cannot free ourselves. It seems that we work to sin, and we get paid to sin. Paul tells us the wages, the payment we receive for sin is death. But, there’s always a theological but. For believers, we have been set free from sin. We are forgiven of our sins. There is also a declaration in that confession. God, who is rich in mercy, loved us even when we were dead in sin, and made us alive together with Christ. By grace you have been saved. In the name of ☩ Jesus Christ, your sins are forgiven.
We are still slaves, but we have become slaves of righteousness. We have become freed from sin and enslaved to God. And this is a free gift! It’s given to us because we are all God’s children and God loves us as his children. There are no wages. It’s free! And this free gift is eternal life in Christ Jesus!
All Praise and glory be to The God who loves us—loves us first.