In View of Our Weaknesses

We see that great princes stumble and that the best bishops often show themselves as the most foolish.

Then what? Should nothing at all be done, and should all managing be shunned entirely? Not at all. Rather let everyone diligently and faithfully do his duty which has been committed to him by God. But let him beware of relying on his own strength or his own wisdom and of considering himself such a great man that everything should be directed in accordance with what he counsels. For it is incurable and damnable rashness and arrogance on my part when I claim to be such a person and such an extraordinary man that I can manage the state, the home, and the church wisely and properly. But if you are a judge, a bishop, or a prince, you should not feel ashamed to fall on your knees and say: “Lord God, Thou hast appointed me as prince, judge, head of the household, and pastor of the church. Therefore guide and teach me, give me counsel, wisdom, and strength to attend successfully to the office committed to me.”

Hence everyone should learn to acknowledge his weakness humbly and to ask GOD for wisdom and counsel. For men are not summoned to govern because they should arrogate to themselves perfect knowledge of everything, but because they should be taught and learn what God is and what He does through the government and the rulers, who are the instruments of God’s works through which God rules the people. Then they become truly wise and successful in governing. But if they follow their own counsels and their own thoughts, they do nothing properly. No, then they disturb and confuse everything. Therefore one must take refuge in prayer, set forth the difficulty of the office to God, and say: “Our Father who art in heaven, etc., give me the wisdom that sits by Thy throne” (Wisd. of Sol. 9:4)

But above all a ruler in the church should pray in this manner: “Lord God, Thou has appointed me in the church as bishop and pastor. Thou seest how unfit I am to attend to such a great and difficult office, and if it had not been for Thy help, I would long since have ruined everything. Therefore I call upon Thee. Of course, I want to put my mouth and heart to use. I shall teach the people, and I myself shall learn and shall meditate diligently on Thy Word. Use me as Thy instrument. Only do not forsake me; for if I am alone, I shall easily destroy everything.” The sects and the sectarians do the opposite, for they ascribe to themselves the wisdom and the ability to rule and to teach. Therefore they burst rashly into the church, do not pray, and do not believe that the administration either of the church or of the state is a gift of God; but they force themselves in as teachers and leaders. Therefore it eventually happens that they confuse and hinder what has been profitable built by others.

But you could find many who do not acknowledge this higher power and wisdom in governing. If any obstacles are put in their way, they suppose that they will set things right more properly if they employ greater severity in their punishments, so that their subjects are held in check by the fear of the punishments and are driven to obey even against their will. Surely there is need of discipline — and rather stern discipline at that — especially in the matter of these morals of ours; but it is completely certain that you will never achieve anything without prayer. For governing is a divine power, and for this reason God calls all magistrates gods (cf. Ps. 82:6), not because of the creation but because of the administration which belongs to God alone. Consequently, he who is in authority is an incarnate god, so to speak. But if they force their way into the government of the church, the state, or the household rashly and without due preparation, exclude God, do not pray, and do not seek advice from God but want to rule everything with their own counsels and strength, then it will eventually happen in the management of household affairs that an honorable and chaste wife will become a harlot of the worst kind and that the children will degenerate and come into the power of the executioner. In the civil government the state will be thrown into confusion by insurrections, wars, and countless other perils. In the church heresies, Epicurean contempt for the Word, desecration of the sacraments, etc., will arise. Why? Because such a head of a household, prince, or pastor does not recognize GOD as the Author of all counsel and government but by his presumption and arrogance destroys himself and others over whom he rules.

LW, AE vol. 5, p. 122-124

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