The Lutheran Hour Sermon Text

"A Done Duty"

Presented on The Lutheran Hour on October 7, 2007
By Rev. Dr. Ken Klaus, Speaker of The Lutheran Hour
(Q&A Topic:Who was Cain's wife?)
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Text: Luke 17:10

Christ is risen! He is risen, indeed. This day, with the hymnist we say, "Nothing in my hand I bring, Simply to Thy cross I cling; Naked, come to Thee for dress; Helpless, look to Thee for grace; Foul, I to the fountain fly, - Wash me, Savior, or I die!" This day, we rejoice for a living Lord Jesus has come and having done as the Father asked, gives grace, heaven, and hope to God's children. Amen!

It was about 20 years ago, or somewhere about then, that a mother came to my office for a visit. Normally this lady was a caring, compassionate, loving, levelheaded individual. That day things were different. Her nose was red, her eyes were tired, and if you had looked closely, you would have noticed her hands were shaking, just a little. To the best of my remembrance what she said went something like this: Pastor, you know we've got five children and we don't have a lot of money. We can't give our kids all of the things some of the other parents give their youngsters, but we try to make up for that by loving them very hard, and doing inexpensive things together as a family. That seems to have been working with most of the crew; but lately our second youngest has been doing some complaining. He's been saying that his allowance isn't near as much as that which his classmates get. That's true. He gets about a dollar a week, and some of his friends in school are given five bucks. We explained our situation to him and we thought the matter was closed and everything was getting better.

You know, Pastor, we expect all of our kids to help out around the house. If our home is going to run smoothly it can only happen if everybody does their share. Yesterday our son gave us this note. The is what the note said:

"Dear Mom and Dad. I don't get the allowance that other children get. That's not fair. But I do think I ought to get paid for the things I do. Here's the bill for last week. For making my bed six days in a row, 25 cents a day. For taking out the garbage three times: 25 cents for each trip. For doing my homework without having to be told, that's 20 cents per day. For putting my dishes in the sink: ten cents." The boy's list went on. I probably don't have to tell you that the total came to $5.00, the amount his friends were getting for their allowance. In his closing words the boy implied that his parents, at least in some areas, ought to be appreciative that he wasn't charging them more for the work he was doing.

Let me ask: what advice would you have given to that mother? Remember, you can't put the boy up for adoption and you can't beat the living daylights out of the unappreciative little lad. Let me tell you what we did. We wrote up two lists, two bills of our own. The first read: For buying a home in which you have a room, for giving you bed, sheets, and a pillow to sleep on: one dollar a day. For driving you to school, buying your books, supplies, lunches, sports equipment, and paying for field trips: five dollars a day. For shopping for your food, for preparing the food, for washing the dishes after you eat: three dollars a day. Then the mother threw in a few of the other things she regularly did for her son: things like changing the sheets on his bed at three in the morning when he had the flu; or making an emergency run to school when he forgot to bring something on Show-And-Tell day; or digging the grave, and saying the right words when his pet turtle died. The boy got billed for all the things you can't pay a mother to do, but which she does anyway.

That night, the boy found an envelope rather than a dinner plate where he normally sits. Inside the envelope was the five dollars he said his parents owed him. Along with the fiver there was the first bill from his parents. Although the boy wasn't a financial wizard, he quickly grasped he wasn't going to be making a profit. That was driven home by the first item on the bill. It said, "Son, we are having your favorite dinner tonight. Your cost is $7.30. As soon as we receive the money, you will get your food. If you need it, I do have change."

Now if you understand this story, you can understand something Jesus said to His disciples; something recorded in the 17th chapter of Luke. In those verses Jesus was talking to His friends about rewards. It seems, on a pretty regular basis, the disciples wondered about when their investment in Jesus was going to produce some dividends. They were pretty sure that there were to be some tangible rewards coming to those who had given up everything to follow the Savior. The only question they had was: How big a reward am I going to get? Because they wanted to make sure they got all which was coming to them, they argued about who was going to be the greatest in the kingdom of heaven (see Matthew 18:1). Wanting to make sure her boys would get all they deserved, the mother of James and John asked Jesus to promise them positions of honor in His kingdom (see Matthew 20:21).

The disciples, like the little boy in our opening story, like most of us, wanted God to treat them fairly, to deal with them as equals, to give them what they thought they had coming. That kind of attitude is a big mistake and a common human error. It is the same blunder Adam and Eve made when they ate the forbidden fruit in an attempt to become equal with God. Read through Scripture and see how often God's great heroes of faith felt they weren't being treated fairly. At one point or another in their lives, men like Moses, Elijah, and Jonah all complained God wasn't giving them what they deserved. You can hear them griping to God about how they're under rewarded and under appreciated.

It's not so very different today. People flock to hear preachers who promise a spiritual partnership in which God is demoted to being a divine yes-man, a silent junior-partner who ought to be grateful that anybody takes the time to consult with Him. And if they're not happy, blessed, or enjoying the good life, they get angry at God for not treating them better. Listen carefully and you may even hear your heart wondering if God hasn't been just the least little bit stingy with His blessings; if God isn't being somewhat miserly in giving you what you think you've got coming.

To correct this me-based misconception, Jesus asked His disciples a number of questions. He began by asking: Suppose you've got a servant (make that a slave) and he has spent the day doing some manual labor; maybe he's been out plowing, or running all over the fields trying to keep track of the sheep. Now, at the end of the day, when he comes home, tell me how it works: do you, the owner of this slave say to him, "Hey, good buddy, tell you what; you've had a tough day. Why don't you take a seat, kick off your shoes, and let me serve you supper. No, no, no, don't worry about me, I can always grab a bite later on after you've eaten." Jesus asked: Guys, is that the way it works, or is the master more likely to say, "Slave, get yourself changed and get some supper for me, and then when I'm done, you can eat your meal"? Jesus didn't wait for an answer. He immediately asked another question. He asked: If a slave does his duty; if he does what you tell him to do; are you compelled and commanded to thank him? Yes, I know it doesn't cost a person anything to say "thank you," but that's not what Jesus was asking. Jesus was asking: Does a master have to thank his slave because that slave followed the instructions he was given?

The questions were almost rhetorical. You see, in Jesus' day the disciples and everybody else knew the answers to those questions. Everyone knew masters gave orders and slaves followed the orders. Masters ate first. Slaves ate second. Masters were waited on and slaves did the waiting. Living at a time when the world had great class distinctions and separations, in a time when one individual because of social status enjoyed freedoms which were denied to another, the disciples would have understood Jesus' point. They would have known the slave is not greater than his master; the one who serves is less than the person who is served.

You, my friend, may have a harder time understanding what Jesus was driving at. You live in a land where liberty and equality are important and cherished concepts. You live at a time when the basic rights of the individual are considered to be of almost paramount importance. Even so, that doesn't mean you can't grasp Jesus' position. Let me ask: When you get into a taxi, who picks the destination? Is it the driver or is it you, the person who's paying the fare? When the taxi driver takes you to the address you gave him, are you compelled to thank him for not dropping you off somewhere else? Ridiculous. You may tip him because he got you to your destination efficiently, but you don't have to thank him for taking you to the right address.

Similarly, when you go to a nice restaurant, does the waitress choose what you're going to eat that night; or do you reserve the right to make the selection? The answer is obvious: if you're the one who is paying; you're also the one who gets to do the picking. And, when your waitress brings you what you ordered, do you thank her for not having made any substitutions? Of course not! You may tip her for being prompt, courteous, and helpful, but she doesn't get anything extra for having brought you what you ordered.

And right about now, I can almost hear you saying, "OK, OK, I get it. I understand about taxi drivers and waitresses. You're saying we're not equals; at least not in that situation. Because I'm paying I get to give the orders and they get to take them. I even understand that part about slaves having to take orders from their masters. But what does that have to do with religion, and Jesus, and salvation?"

I'll tell you. Jesus wanted people to know they're not God's equal. They're not. They aren't as smart as He is; they're not as old as He is; they're not as strong as He is, they're not nearly as good in anything as He is. He is the creator and owner of all that we see, of all that is. He is the one who has made us; He is the one who keeps us going. He is the one who has given us all that we need to support our bodies and lives. As the Divine Creator and Preserver, He is the one who makes up the rules, who gets to call the shots. He's the Master; He's the boss. He is the one who has set in place the rules of the Universe, of our world, of our lives. He is the one who decides right from wrong; and who sets the standards for admission to heaven and hell. You may not like it; you may argue against it, but that's the way it is. You're not God's equal. He's the Master, we're the servants and He is in control.

The second thing Jesus wanted us to understand is this: we really don't want God to give us what we've got coming. We think we ought to get good things from God because we see ourselves as being good persons who deserve God's smiles, His blessings, and eternal gratitude. From God's perspective, that's bunk. God's perfection means He sees us as slaves who have disobeyed divine instructions, who have broken His commands. God sees us as taxi drivers who want to choose the destination; as waitresses who think they know what ought to be served. No, we don't want God to give us what we've got coming. What we've got coming is nasty. Listen to Jesus. He says, "The Son of Man will send His angels, and they will gather out of His kingdom all causes of sin and all law-breakers, and throw them into the fiery furnace. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth" (Matthew 13: 41-42). That's what we've got coming, and we don't want it.

Which takes Jesus to the last thing He wanted His disciples to know. It's probably the most amazing thing you'll ever hear. That wonderful thing is this: Your heavenly Father doesn't want to give you what you've got coming either. If a person spends just a moment thinking about this gracious quality of God, they'll find it quite unbelievable. So that He didn't have to give us what we've got coming, the Lord sent His Son into the world to save us, to rescue us, to move us from the sinners we were to the saved saints He wants us to be. To that end, Jesus lived His entire life. So we might not get what we've got coming, Jesus fulfilled the commandments we have broken; He resisted every temptation Satan threw at Him and when things became painful, Jesus didn't complain about how the innocent was being punished for the guilty. Wonder of wonders, Jesus did His duty and performed the work which gives eternal life. Jesus got what He didn't deserve so we might receive what we haven't earned.
As I said, what Jesus did is amazing. Let me ask: what would you do with a taxi driver who refused to listen to you; who refused to take you where you wanted to go? You might complain to the police; you might file a report with his company. You'd never ride with that cab driver again. In contrast to what we would do, look what Jesus did. He showed the Father's love, even when He was hated for the showing. He came as the Son of God but many said He was of the devil. Jesus said He was the "Way;" but the world maintained there were many ways. Jesus said He was the "Light," but the world preferred the darkness. Jesus said He was "Truth" and people labeled Him a liar. He came to save humanity from sin, but the world remained stuck in its transgression. Jesus reached out to the lost, the lonely, the demonic, the despairing, the damned, and they slammed nails into His hands and placed Him on a cross to die. It wasn't fair, but Jesus got what He didn't deserve so we might receive what we haven't earned.

It's amazing. Listen, this is a little gross but, if you saw a waitress spit in your food before she served it to you, what would you do? You might report her to her manager; you might call the health department. I doubt if you'd ever go back to that restaurant again. In contrast to what we would do, look at what Jesus did. Humanity didn't spit in Jesus' food; they spit in His face. When that happened, Jesus didn't complain; He didn't file a report. He didn't think it unfair when old friends tried to throw Him off a cliff; or when His disciples deserted Him; or when a friend betrayed Him with a kiss. He didn't bail on us when false witnesses lied about Him; when they beat Him; when they whipped Him; when they crucified Him. God's Son was declared guilty so we, on Judgment Day might be found innocent. Jesus died alone so we might live for eternity in heaven. Jesus carried the sins He never committed so we might be free from their burden, from their condemnation. He rose from the dead so we might be assured that we who were condemned to die might live forever. Jesus got what He didn't deserve so we might receive what we haven't earned.

Do you remember our opening story from today, the one about the boy who charged his family for taking out the garbage and doing his homework? If you remember, at supper his mother gave him a bill of her own. She said unless she was paid he wasn't going to eat. Well, I don't want you to think the boy starved to death; he didn't. He didn't starve because, as I said, there was a second, almost duplicate bill. I say almost because while the categories on the second bill were the same, and the charges were the same, there was a difference in the column marked, "What you owe us." In that column his mother had written: "Paid in Full." As his mother got him his supper the boy read the back of the bill. As I remember, it said something like: "Son, your bill is paid in full not because you've asked for it, or because you've earned it, or because you've talked us into it. It is paid in full because you are our son and we love you. We may not always give you everything you want, but we will make sure you have everything you need."

That is what the Lord says to you today. Jesus' life, death, and resurrection has marked the bill of your sins "Paid in Full." You may not have asked for it, you certainly haven't earned it, and it definitely wasn't fair, but God who is in control has said, "That's the way it is." And because that's the way it is, all who have faith in Jesus as their Savior are saved. If you need to hear more about this amazing idea of God's grace, please call us at The Lutheran Hour. Amen.

LUTHERAN HOUR MAILBOX (Questions & Answers) for October 7, 2007
TOPIC: Cain's Wife

ANNOUNCER: Who was Adam and Eve's daughter-in-law? Pastor Ken Klaus answers questions from listeners. I'm Mark Eischer.

KLAUS: Sounds like we've got ourselves a doozy here, Mark.

ANNOUNCER: I think so. A listener wants to know, "If the Bible is accurate, and if Adam and Eve were our first ancestors, who did their children marry?" In Genesis chapter 4 verses 16-17 it says, "Then Cain went away from the presence of the Lord and settled in the land of Nod, east of Eden. Cain knew his wife, and she conceived and bore Enoch." Where did Cain's wife come from?

KLAUS: I suppose I shouldn't be a wise guy and say he got her at Brides 'R Us?

ANNOUNCER: I don't think that would be wise.

KLAUS: And we know it wasn't an online dating service, either. Mark, let's deal with first things first. It is not a question of "if" the Bible is accurate. It is. And that accuracy even extends to the creation story, the fall into sin, the promise of a Savior, the birth of children, and Cain's murder of Abel. If our listener, or any listener, isn't willing to agree on that, then this question doesn't make any sense at all.

ANNOUNCER: Agreed. The Bible tells how sin first entered the world because of humankind's disobedience. God throws Adam and Eve out of the Garden of Eden. Their first son - Cain - murders their second son and he's punished by God. He's consigned to wander the world. And after that, he gets married and has children. Now, where did his wife come from?

KLAUS: Before I go any farther, Mark. We should also add: roughly the same question could be asked after the Flood. According to Scripture, there were only eight people who survived that catastrophe. Where did they get their spouses? There are two choices, Mark. Neither of which sounds good to 21st century ears.

ANNOUNCER: I understand. The choices would have been extremely limited.

KLAUS: The simple answer is: Cain's wife would have either to have had to be his sister or his niece.

ANNOUNCER: That does sound strange. It's difficult to imagine growing up in the same house with someone and then later marrying that person.

KLAUS: Well, that might not be the case, Mark. Cain might not have grown up in the same house with his sister.

ANNOUNCER: Why do you say that?

KLAUS: It's this way... if we believe all the rest of the Genesis story, we also believe that people at that time lived to be very, very old. Hundreds of years old. That would imply that they could have had children far longer than we do today.

ANNOUNCER: So, you're saying Cain might have been a few years older than the sister he married?

KLAUS: Cain could have been a few centuries older. But his wife didn't necessarily have to be his sister, either.

ANNOUNCER: You lost me again.

KLAUS: Adam and Eve had other children besides Cain and Abel. Suppose one of their other sons married one of his sisters and they had a child. If that child later became Cain's wife, he would have been marrying his niece.

ANNOUNCER: Or, if he got married still later... his great niece, his great, great niece...

KLAUS: That's what I'm saying. Like I said, it sounds very foreign to modern ears. The Bible doesn't say one way or another.

ANNOUNCER: But I don't think we've addressed the real problem here. Isn't it against the law to marry a close relative?

KLAUS: Now it most certainly is. In Leviticus 18, beginning with verse six, God instructs His people to refrain from all manner of incest. The Lord says it is a depravity to do such a thing.

ANNOUNCER: Then why was it OK for Cain, and others living at that time?

KLAUS: I gave you a clue, Mark. The prohibition against such a relationship is found in the book of Leviticus.

ANNOUNCER: Which was written after Cain.

KLAUS: And after the time of the flood.

ANNOUNCER: So you're saying incest was OK before the rule was given that prohibited it.

KLAUS: I'm saying if God didn't give a law against something, there was no prohibition against it. You can't break a law which hasn't been given.

ANNOUNCER: But didn't people have a moral law written in their hearts? Cain knew it was wrong to kill his brother. Shouldn't he have known it was wrong to commit incest?

KLAUS: Cain would have known it was wrong to commit adultery; but, on the other hand, it was right to marry and have a God-pleasing family. That's always what God's rules have encouraged. As time went on, because of the sinfulness of human hearts, God got more specific and detailed in the laws which He gave.

ANNOUNCER: But a God-pleasing marriage is what the Lord was striving for.

KLAUS: Exactly, and that's something Cain would have understood.

ANNOUNCER: This has been a presentation of Lutheran Hour Ministries.

Music selections for this program:

“A Mighty Fortress” arranged by John Leavitt. Concordia Publishing House/SESAC

“I Know My Faith Is Founded” arranged by Henry Gerike. Used by permission

“I Know My Faith Is Founded” by Arthur L. Preuss. From Sacred Organ Originals by Arthur L. Preuss (© 2006 Arthur L. Preuss, Sr.)

“Prelude on Lauda Anima” by John Behnke. From For All Seasons, vol. 2 by John Behnke (© 2001 John A. Behnke) Concordia Publishing House/SESAC