Martin Luther: Look at your own life

“Know that to serve God is nothing else than to serve your neighbor and do good to him in love, be it child, wife, servant, enemy, friend; without making any difference, whoever needs your help in body or soul, and wherever you can help in temporal or spiritual matters. This is serving God and doing good works.

O Lord God, how do we fools live in this world, neglecting to do such good works, though in all parts of the world we find the needy, on whom we could bestow our good works; but no one looks after them nor cares for them.

But look to your own life. If you do not find yourself among the needy and the poor, where the Gospel shows us Christ, then you may know that your faith is not right and that you have not yet tasted of Christ’s benevolence and work for you.”
Martin Luther in “The Doctrine of Faith and Good Works” (56) in Through the Year with Martin Luther: A Selection of Sermons Celebrating the Feasts and Seasons of the Christian Year (Peabody: Hendrickson, 2007) 80.

While Luther’s message to the Church can be summarized as “salvation by grace through faith in Jesus Christ alone”, He rightly exhorts us, as recipients of Christ’s benevolence, to serve the needy. We are to help with “temporal or spiritual matters”, which means aiding those who are suffering some personal crisis and those who may need our help spiritually.

What about you? As a recipient of divine mercy do you find yourself among the hurting, materially and/or spiritually? Or do you buffer yourself from such people? If you “look at your own life” what do you see? Open your calendar. How do you spend your time? Mark one thing you can do next week to place yourself among the temporally or spiritually needy. Why do this? In the same narrative Luther adds these insightful words.

“Therefore, behold what an important saying it is, “Blessed is he whosoever shall find no occasion of stumbling in me” [Matthew 11:6]. We stumble in two respects. In faith, because we expect to become pious Christians in a different way than through Christ and go our way blindly, not acknowledging Christ. In love we stumble, because we are not mindful of the poor and needy, do not look after them, and yet we think we satisfy the demands of faith with other works than these.”

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