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Lessons in the Lutheran Confessions
Concerning Monastic Vows part 32

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Matthew 5:3

From the Confessions: The Defense of the Augsburg Confession

Concerning Monastic Vows 

Here is another passage cited concerning perfection: “If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess and give to the poor...and come, follow me” (Matt 19:21). This passage has vexed many, who have imagined that perfection happens by discarding possessions and the control of property. Let us allow the philosophers to extol Aristippus, who cast a great weight of gold into the sea. Such examples do not pertain in any way to Christian perfection. The division, control, and possession of property are civil ordinances, approved by God’s Word in the commandment. “You shalt not steal” (Exod 20:15). The abandonment of property has no command or counsel in Scripture. Poverty of the gospel does not consist in the abandonment of property, but in lack of greed and the trust of wealth—just as David was poor in a very wealthy kingdom.

Pulling It Together

Having no bank account does not aid the spirit, though it may destroy the spirit if one takes pride in the so-called accomplishment of giving up money and property. Being poor in spirit is the goal of the Christian life. Comprehending and admitting one’s spiritual insolvency is the beginning of perfection. When we acknowledge our absolute inability to pay for salvation, we may be driven to despair—or we may be impelled to faith. When we have faith in God despite personal failure and sin, God’s holiness, righteousness, and perfection is freely given to those who believe because of what Christ has done for us all.

Perfection has nothing to do with giving up money, property, or family. It has everything to do with having faith in Christ, following him, no matter what happens with possessions and relationships. The spiritually poor trust in God above all things, finding perfection in his perfection, not their own.

Prayer: Help me rejoice and be glad, Lord, because my reward is in you. Amen.

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