Faith vs. Self-Reliance

“Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord” (Jer. 17:7)

From the opening of the collect of the day when we pray, “O God, the strength of all who put their trust in you,” and through the passages from scripture we read, we are invited through our worship on this Sunday to place our complete reliance on God. The faith that is given us, that inclines us to seek to serve and please the Lord “both in will and deed” is a disposition of absolute trust in him in whom we believe. The fruit of such trust is blessedness.

In the Old Testament reading and in the gospel, the blessing of reliant faith is contrasted with the curse of self-reliance. The prophet Jeremiah declares this in straightforward terms, “Cursed is the man who trusts in man… whose heart turns away from the Lord.” But “Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, whose trust is in the Lord.” In the sermon recorded in Luke, a parallel passage to St. Matthew’s familiar Beatitudes, Jesus begins by proclaiming the blessedness of those who have no strength of their own on which to rely: the poor, the hungry, the mournful, and the despised. This he sets over against the woe he pronounces upon those whose circumstances allow them to trust in themselves. The rich, the full, those “that laugh now,” and those of good reputation may perceive no need to rely on God.

Similarly, the psalmist contrasts “the way of the righteous” with “the way of the wicked.” It is the righteous who are blessed, or, in the language of the prayer book psalter, “Happy are they.” As for the wicked, their way “is doomed.” The righteous are those who rely on the Lord. This can be seen by comparing the usage in both Jeremiah and the psalm of the image of the dependence of a tree on water. Just so is the person of faith reliant on God in order to flourish.

In the epistle, the apostle grounds the faith of the believer in the preaching of Christ’s resurrection. Though life after death may seem impossible, though some might declare it unbelievable, we who trust in the Lord boldly proclaim, “Christ has been risen from the dead, the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep.” Our hope is found not only in this life, but also in “the life of the world to come.” The strength of this hope is our trust in the Lord.

Look It Up

Read the text or sing hymn 680 from the Hymnal 1982, “O God, our help in ages past,” as a prayer of hopeful trust.

Think About It

Consider the circumstances of your life that cause you to feel self-sufficient. How might these be used in ways that will strength your faith and reliance on God?

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