Do-Nothing Piety
Dorcas, Lydia, and Phoebe, Faithful Women
25 October 2018
The Fifth Commandment is so easy to fulfill by not plunging a knife into the heart of our neighbor. None of us has done that, right? Whew! I am glad that I have kept at least one of those pesky commandments. It's a start, anyway.
But not so fast! Such thinking is indicative of our own deluded self-righteousness. We break the Fifth Commandment when we fail to serve our neighbor's physical need. We have not fed the hungry, covered the naked, or defended the innocent. The commandments not only require us to avoid sin by not doing certain things, but they also require us to keep the commandments by doing certain other things. We are to help our neighbor, just as Christ has helped us in our every need. Jesus is Himself the good Samaritan of the Gospel. The self-righteousness do not want to sully their pristine holiness by getting into the messy and bloodied need of the man at the side of the road (Lk 10:29-37). Our sin avoidance may well find us breaking the fifth commandment.
We may not hide in the fastidious and fussy safety of sin avoidance, but under the banner of Christ and covered by His mercy, we must go forward to help our neighbor and serve him in every way we can, risking the danger that can only come by embracing the Christ-like need of the neighbor's suffering.

Rev. Dr. Scott R. Murray
Memorial Lutheran Church

   Martin Luther
"A person who does evil to his neighbor is not the only one guilty under the fifth commandment. It also applies to any one who can do his neighbor good, prevent or resist evil, defend, and save his neighbor so that no bodily harm or hurt happened to him-yet does not do this (Jam 2:15-16). If, therefore, you send away someone who is naked when you could clothe him, you have caused him to freeze to death. If you see someone suffer hunger and do not give them food, you have caused him to starve. So also, if you see anyone innocent be sentenced to death or in similar distress, and do not save him, although you know ways and means to do so, you have killed him. It will not work for you to make the excuse that you did not provide any help, counsel, or aid to harm him. For you have withheld your love from him and deprived him of the benefit by which his life would have been saved." 

Martin Luther, Large Catechism,
Luke 10:29-37

But he, desiring to justify himself, said to Jesus, "And who is my neighbor?" Jesus replied, "A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and he fell among robbers, who stripped him and beat him and departed, leaving him half dead. Now by chance a priest was going down that road, and when he saw him he passed by on the other side. So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan, as he journeyed, came to where he was, and when he saw him, he had compassion. He went to him and bound up his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he set him on his own animal and brought him to an inn and took care of him. And the next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper, saying, 'Take care of him, and whatever more you spend, I will repay you when I come back. 'Which of these three, do you think, proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers?" He said, "The one who showed him mercy." And Jesus said to him, "You go, and do likewise." (ESV)
O Lord, You have served me in every physical need. Grant me the grace to risk myself for the need of my neighbor. Guard me from fussy self-righteousness, that I might throw myself into the world's desperate need. Amen.
For the joy of the resurrection among us, that we might live by the life of Christ through the power of baptism
For true and godly worship throughout the world, that God would open our lips to show forth His praise
For faithful preaching of the Word of God, that God might be justified and justifier in that preaching

For all the faithful women who provide  service to the church, that they would be upheld in every good deed
Art: Albrecht DURER, The Adoration of the Trinity (1511)
Memorial Lutheran Church
© Scott Murray 2018
Memorial Lutheran Church, 5800 Westheimer Rd., Houston, TX 77057
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