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Lessons in the Lutheran Confessions
Concerning Monastic Vows part 45

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Matthew 5:33–37

From the Confessions: The Defense of the Augsburg Confession

Concerning Monastic Vows 

If our opponents wish to misapply this passage to vows, they must also misapply the prohibition that no “widow be enrolled if she is not less than sixty years of age” (1 Tim 5:9). Vows made before this age would therefore be invalid. But the Church did not yet know of these vows. Paul does not condemn widows because they marry (he commands the younger widows to marry [1 Tim 5:14]) but because they became wanton while being supported at the public expense and thus, abandoned faith. He clearly does not call this “first pledge” (1 Tim 5:12) a monastic vow, but a Christian oath. He understands faith in this sense in the same chapter: “If any one does not provide for his relatives, and especially for his own family, he has disowned the faith” (1 Tim 5:8). Paul speaks of faith differently than the sophists. He does not ascribe faith to those who have mortal sin. Accordingly, he says that those who do not care for their relatives have abandoned faith. In the same way, he says that wanton women reject faith.

Pulling It Together

These older widows had promised to not remarry so that they could receive assistance from the church. Remarrying was seen as breaking that “oath”—the same word translated as “faith.” It is better to make no oath at all, yet sometimes, when life presses us hard, it is difficult to trust in God’s providence.

But let us not be sidetracked in this discussion. What we are actually dealing with here, is the wrong use of Scripture. We must not use a verse to prove our point when the Scripture is not not even referring to our particular cause. In this case, Paul is speaking of the pledges made by widows over 60 years of age. He is not speaking of monastic vows made by men of any age during a time when the church knew nothing of monasticism.

Prayer: Help me trust in you, Lord. Amen.

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