Good Things Come in Threes
Omne Trium Perfectum is a Latin philosophy that states that everything that comes in pairs of three is perfect. Now, we know that just because something comes in a trio doesn’t mean its sacred, but the philosophy has been made due to the observation of human psychology. We see it in the area of aesthetics and art with methods such as the rule of thirds and the three primary colors. We see it in the area of practicality, such as when geometry and physics meet to observe that the triangle is the sturdiest shape used in construction.
In our text this morning from the prophet Jeremiah, we will observe two pairs of three—one bad pair and one good pair. And as we unpack these two trios, we will notice that there is one overarching principle: Good things come in threes. With the evil pair, we will notice that natural, sinful man will find this pair of three as “good” in their own minds only to be proven wrong later. And on the other hand we will find that the good pair of three is the best pair of three a person could ever dream of, for this pair of three demonstrates the grace of our Triune God. Let us then pray that the eyes of our faith may view the greater of these trios as the sturdy triangle that holds us up through life from this world to the next.
In examining the first of our two trios, we come to what I call the greed triangle. God describes it this way, “let not the wise man glory in his wisdom, let not the might man glory in his might, nor let the rich man glory in his riches.” Can you see this first trio and how many in this world may still see it as good? The trio of greed is comprised of wisdom, power, and wealth. Now, let it be known that none of these things are wrong in and of themselves, but when they become a person’s sole confidence to the point where they abandon their God, that’s when the trio becomes evil. Many souls in this world naturally think that if they could have all three of these things let alone just one, they would have it made, their life would be complete. This mindset is dangerous, for relying on your wisdom, power, and wealth to the point where they become your god is like using a faulty, disconnected triangle in a construction project, which results in the building falling to the ground.
Looking at each part of the greed trio, let me give a case of how boasting in each portion of the trio caused great downfall, starting with wisdom. Now, the gift of wisdom is tremendously wonderful and useful, but when one boasts in his own wisdom rather than the God who gave him his wisdom, that’s just downright foolish; for how is wisdom defined in Scripture? The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. If the Lord is forgotten, than it is no longer wisdom. When I think of how God’s gift of wisdom was wasted for nothingness, my mind immediately comes to the example given by King Solomon for our warning. Solomon was the wisest among men, having received wisdom as a direct answer to his prayer. He used it to advance the kingdom of Israel and even used it to advance the kingdom of God by witnessing to the queen of Sheba and the king of Tyre. But, in his pride and greed, he also used his wisdom to bring upon himself everything he wanted: riches, prestigious building projects, many wives from many nations. This wisdom became his god as he used it to get everything he ever wanted…until God, the giver of the wisdom, told him that this misuse of his gift would bring the downfall of the kingdom of Israel. Now, perhaps you’ve been granted this gift of wisdom, and it can allow you to solve many problems. Praise be to God… but if it is misused and mistreated, it can guide you down a rabbithole of false security as you use this gift to lean on yourself, saying, “there is no problem I can’t solve. Nothing I can’t attain through my wisdom!” This is no longer wisdom talking, but rather foolishness.
Now we turn to the case of power, the second part of our trio. Once again, power in and of itself is not a bad thing. Power, whether it’s physical strength or managerial status or charismatic skills, can be used in a tremendous way. I think of a different king when I think of this gift. My next example is not Solomon, but Solomon’s father, David. King David was a powerful king. Being a hardy shepherd, an intelligent man, and appealing to the senses; He was capable in battle, strategy, and charisma. Slaying giants, conquering armies, and rallying a nation having gone bankrupt of morale under King Saul, David was about as powerful of a king as one could imagine…and yet, in a spirit of greed and pride, he used it for evil, leaning on it to get what he wanted. When he saw Bathsheba on the roof and lusted after her, it was as simple as the snap of the finger. Uriah went to battle at the frontlines at David’s command, and Uriah was abandoned by his fellow men in arms, also at David’s command. This left Bathsheba a widow that David had all to himself. This power got David everything he wanted…until God took David and Bathsheba’s son away in childbirth as a consequence of David’s wickedness. Now, perhaps you’ve been given the gift of power, and it can give you the utilities to manage many of life’s challenges, but if misused, it can guide you down that same rabbit hole as wisdom as you use this gift to lean on yourself, saying, “I can get whatever I want.” That is no longer power talking, but rather weakness.
Finally, we turn to our last part, wealth. Once again money is not evil in and of itself, but, as Scripture says, the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil. Being gifted with the gift of wealth can be a tremendous blessing such as the two previous kings had, especially Solomon who used his wealth for the sanctified purpose to build the Temple at the Lord’s command. But there’s a reason our Savior told us that it is easier for a camel to enter the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God. Think of the rich young man who, after wrongfully confessing that he kept the commands of God to perfection, said to Jesus’ face, “What else do I lack?” The young man sure hung his head low when he couldn’t so much as sell an outfit let alone all his belongings to follow Jesus. No, we also see how greed, the lust for money, has even driven one of the twelve to literally sell the trust of Jesus for thirty pieces of silver all to receive suicidal guilt. Now, perhaps you’ve been given the gift of wealth, and it can be used as God’s way to provide for you and his church, but if misused, wealth can guide you down that same rabbit hole as wisdom and power as you use the gift to lean on yourself, saying, “I have everything I ever need. What else do I lack?” This is no longer wealth talking, but poorness.
And so, let’s look at the trio that sinful mankind desires. Mankind wants to lean on its own wisdom, which is really foolishness. Mankind wants to lean on its own power, which is really weakness. Mankind wants to lean on its own wealth, which is really poorness. If your sole trust is pride in these three things, then that’s an unsteady triangle waiting to collapse. When Jeremiah warned Israel with these words, they had fallen into this trap of leaning on their own gifts rather than the gift giver…doing this would end up well but would result in the fall of their nation to Babylon. And if we lean on our gifts rather than the giver, if we lean on ourselves rather than our God, we will find things much worse than the loss of a nation, loss of a child, and a woe is me attitude…
And so, turning from the faulty triangle and unstable trio, let us see our God’s grace. Instead of leaning on ourselves, let us lean on our God who by His grace led the children of Israel through the wilderness as we learned in our epistle reading. Let us lean on the God who hired you to work in His kingdom of grace, not complaining or asking for more as we learned in our Gospel reading. Let us find a sturdy triangle and the best trio that one could ask for: The Triune God. God says through Jeremiah, “but let him who glories glory in this, that he understands and knows Me.” We are blessed to understand and know God, and we will grow in understanding and knowledge as we break down in a threefold way the grace of our God. God is the Lord, exercising lovingkindness, judgment, and righteousness in the earth. For He delights in these things. There’s our triangle of grace: Lovingkindness, judgement, and righteousness. In the manner previously used with the first trio, let’s take up this trio.
We start with loving kindness. Perhaps the word you’re accustomed to hearing is grace, God’s undeserved love. This loving kindness, this grace is where we shall always lean, for it is this grace that has brought us this far in life and the same grace that will lead us home. This grace has been displayed in many ways throughout our lives, from the miracles that we can never forget to the simple blessing of waking up in the morning to experience our Lord’s mercies anew. But the greatest way you experience His grace is by hearing His Word and receiving His sacraments, for in these things you receive the love of God given in Christ. As a case for this grace and lovingkindness, I would like to flash back to about a month ago when we witnessed the greatest love that our Father showed us at Christmas time. This Father with His love sent forth His Son into to the world to save us and make us His children once again. He sent this Son to save us from the sins of self-reliance. This Father sent His loving Son into the world to topple idols of wisdom, power, and wealth. This Father sent His Son to be our perfect representative and be our salvation on the cross. This is God the Father’s love for you: He sent His Son to save you. If you’re going to boast, boast in that!
Now how about the next part of this trio: Judgment as our text puts it. That might sound contradictory, for how could judgment mean grace? Usually, we don’t associate those two words together. It is true that judgment and the principal need for it is essential to God. He has laid down a code of law and the punishment for disobeying it. We have just learned that we all have failed to keep this code of law, but we also just learned that God is gracious in sending His Son. So, how do these two reconcile? To explain, perhaps the word justice may help. The judgment we all deserved was met in the next part of the greatest trio, God the Son. The Son of God, Jesus Christ, lived a perfect life according to God’s code of Law, and He offered this perfect life on the cross by taking the judgment we deserved. By this act of grace justice was met, God the Father has seen this and declared us not guilty through Christ’s life, death, and resurrection. This is the second part of the trio of grace. What a blessing? For every time you didn’t live humbly, Jesus did, and He made it right with God through His death. Christ forgave you through His blood and merit. Can this trio, this triangle, get any sturdier?
This is where we come to the last part of the trio: righteousness. God laid His standard of righteousness, and He sent His loving Son to keep it perfectly on our behalf. But, knowing this, how then shall we live? We have been saved! There is no longer a guilty demise. We don’t have to stare into an empty, fiery chasm anymore because of our Savior Christ. But why is it that we still struggle with sin? While we walk this world, we will still struggle to walk the way God intends. We thank God that for every time we fall into sin, Christ has meted out the justice necessary. We thank the Father for His love in sending the Son to save us. But we, wretched people that we are, are we going to change? Only by God’s grace. One day, the day that Christ take us home, we will no longer have sinful, prideful, struggling bodies, but bodies of perfection—sinless and holy. Until then though, we aren’t left hanging to struggle with our sinful flesh. This is where the next hero comes to the story. He works with the Father and the Son. In fact, as He works in the Word’s of Holy Scripture, as He still works through the water and Word applied to you years ago, and as He feeds you through Bread and Wine, the Body and Blood of Christ, God the Holy Spirit has given you the gift of faith, the trust that clings to God alone, that clings to His loving kindness and clings to the sacrifice of justice met in Christ. This Spirit gives you this faith, and He keeps it growing, causing you to grow more and more in the righteousness of God. He gives you a thankful heart that learns everyday more and more to follow God, for God has saved you first, loved you first, and walked in your place every step you needed to walk.
So, wisdom, power, wealth, these things are simply gifts from the Lord. They are not to be where your trust lies. Turn from that broken trio, that broken triangle. See that the real good thing that comes in threes is not these earthly gifts, but rather is the one who gave them. Turn to the unbroken trio, the unbroken triangle, and see that the real good thing that comes in three is the God who made you and loved you by sending His Son, the God who died on the cross to make justice for you and lovingly save you, and the God who gives you faith to trust in Him as He guides you more and more to walk in His ways, always trusting in His three-fold grace, the most glorious gift that comes in a pair of three. Amen.