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George Stöckhardt on Trinity 23 – Matthew 22:15-22

by pastorjuhl ~ November 1st, 2010

Of course, there have been pious and God-fearing rulers upon earth. The pious princes who defended and promoted the Gospel at the time of the Reformation have left a good name and repute for themselves in history. Yet such a wise, just prince is, as Luther says, an unusual fellow, a rare bird. Luther deplored the fact that his Elector, the respected Frederick the Wise, was surrounded by wheedlers and double-dealers who against his will often perverted justice. Thus it has ever been upon the earth. Power, injustice, greed, deceit, robbery were for the most part the rod, staff and scepter of the rulers in the land. Thus has it been until the present day.

In most cases those in authority are like stinking pools; morality and respectability have become extinct. And in this country deception and bribery have been feeding like a cancer. Higher and lesser officials, judges and jurors are obliging where money is involved. One shouldn’t be surprised about this state of affairs, about the state of public life and government. Fear of God, faith, even civil righteousness are rarely found among men. And the great, the wise, the mighty upon earth are for the most part unbelieving, godless men. When they enter government, when they get money, power, prestige, they use their power, public office, and influence to satisfy their evil desires, their self-interests. From where are they to get the strength to resist the grievous temptations that high position brings with it?

Of course, even such unworthy, godless rulers, murderers, thieves, adulterers, such monsters are Tiberius and Nero, as long as they have the authority, the public authority on their hands, they are powers ordained by God. The function of government is and remains God’s institution. And honor is due the office, even if despicable, depraved individuals are entrusted with it.
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Christians are called and are strangers and pilgrims in this world. The world with all its array, world, state government, is for them alien, alien territory. Of course, as guests and as such who enjoy the protection of the state, they observe the laws and customs of the country in which they live and render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s. But they remain constantly aware of the fact that their portion, their treasure, lies elsewhere and their heart lies, too, where it should be.
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Our country, our fatherland, is in heaven. There above in glory the congregation of saints then for the first time receives honor and glory. Accordingly, the future, eternity, is ours. And whatever we do and accomplish and labor here on earth in the kingdom of God, it all bears fruit for eternity. These are not futile, fruitless matters. Here no time and effort are lost. Here everything is a sowing for eternal life. We should never lose sight of this our kingdom and inheritance. And when the world goes into raptures and gets excited over its kingdom, its ordinances and institutions, then is when we should learn wisdom from the children of the world and as the children of light be active and valiant in our behavior, in our own area of concern.
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Ah, indeed, if we want to manage our own home, our own bailiwick, properly, there won’t be any time for alien matters. Alien political matters we can confidently leave to the children of this world just so we render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s. The world has stood for nearly six thousand years in spite of the authority wielded by the godless on earth. It will also continue to exist without our having a hand on the rudder, even though evil scoundrels continue to govern. They still are under God and dare go no farther than God allows. We don’t want to govern before our time. We know that we shall co-reign in yonder world. Thus we shall quietly await the time when God will turn over to his children scepter and crown and dominion, honor, and glory, and in the meantime rather be tolerant, patient, and content and build our own kingdom in peace.

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