What Did Luther Say About Loving Our Neighbor?

We should seek our daily food, clothing & all we need ...as long as we do so without detracting from our love & duty toward our neighbor.

by
Apr 9, 2014

“It is not forbidden but rather commanded that by the sweat of our brow we should seek our daily food, clothing, and all we need and avoid destruction whenever we can, as long as we do so without detracting from our love and duty toward our neighbor.” -Martin Luther

In Martin Luther’s time, society’s affliction, both monetary and bodily, abounded. Exploitation of the poor was rampant, as was the spread of great plagues which killed thousands throughout Europe. Responding to a letter from the Reverend Doctor Johann Hess, asking “whether one may flee from a deadly plague,” Luther answered with typical flair.

“Examples in Holy Scripture,” Luther wrote, “abundantly prove that to flee from death is not wrong in itself.” Indeed, Christ came that we “may have life, and have it abundantly.” However, “If I see that [my neighbor] is hungry or thirsty, I cannot ignore him but must offer food and drink, not considering whether I would risk impoverishing myself by doing so.”

It is an old song. We love because Christ first loved us. We give because Christ has first given to us. We are blessed, in order that we might be a blessing. Whether or not we have the resources that we had six months or a year ago, we still have both the opportunity and the responsibility to save our neighbor from the same deadly plague in which we find ourselves.

Such is the great generosity of God’s love, that no person is created greater than the other. And in this commonality, we are called to open ourselves to our neighbor — even in a time when we are tempted to close our doors and our wallets. For it is in that opening that we remember and encounter the one who opened himself for us, Jesus Christ our Lord.

Adapted from a devotion originally published in the April 2009 issue of To Others, Through Others (TOTO): LWR’s Newsletter.

is Lutheran World Relief’s Interactive Marketing Manager and an ordained pastor in the ELCA.

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