Luke 14:11 For all who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.
This is unconventional wisdom, and definitely not the way of the world, for the world teaches us from early on, if you donít toot your own horn, who will? Of course the world has a lot of things which would be rightly called into question, for the world says that money, power and sex are the things that are most important. And this week, at least part of the world is beginning to say, isnít there something else that is also important too?
The problem is that often people donít know what it might be, and struggling for a term they begin to talk about family values Ė but what they need to be talking about are virtues. What are these virtues? They are prudence, temperance, fortitude, justice, faith, hope and charity. The first 4 are general and apply to the whole world, the last 3 come from God.
Prudence = self control and self discipline
Temperance = moderation in action thought and feeling
Fortitude = strength of mind to encounter danger or pain with courage
Justice = being just, impartial or fair
Faith = belief, trust and loyalty to God
Hope = trust and reliance on the promises of God
Charity = the Love with which God loved us in action in our lives
These virtues are the things which make people truly great, they are the things that last and are remembered for good. There are other things that are also remembered, but they are not for good, and they do not build anyone up, it can be embarrassing even to speak of them. And so prudent people avoid evil, and do their best to do good. People who are not prudent, and are not temperate regularly get themselves into trouble. There is not much you can learn from people who lack virtue, except that God does not abandon them, but he humbles them, that they might see their sin, repent, and turn from their foolish way, and turn to Godís way.
And so one might rightly say that true humility is a virtue, for it is a combination of Prudence and Temperance. And so we look to the table of duties, and see that the has obligations for all of us, and that we ought to do what we are called to do. So we are called upon to show hospitality, compassion, mercy, chastity, and to keep our lives free of the love of money, being content with what we have. We are called upon to remember all those who by their good example have influenced our lives.
But it is not good works which save us. And God does not say those who are better than most will be saved. For while the law shows us our obligations and the things we are called to do, and to avoid Ė it also shows us our sins. There is no way to find peace in the law.
The law is useful, for it shows us where to aim, it gives us goals and direction. But try as hard as we might we cannot perfectly achieve that which we are called to do. By ourselves, even if we see our sin, we cannot turn from it Ė that power comes from God. For Christ has conquered sin, death and the devil, and gives us the victory. Christ comes by grace through faith, to make us a new creation. Christ gives us the power to become virtuous.
Why be virtuous? Because as Christians, we are Christ bearers, carrying Christ in our hearts and in our lives. Though the Lutheran Hour may talk about bringing Christ to the nations, it is not the radio, but the people of faith who bring Christ to the nations.