A Maid Is More Godly Than A Monk

Product Details Dear Christian: You don’t have to go into full- or part-time ministry to please God.  You don’t have to go on a mission trip or undergo some monastic retreat experience to bring God glory.  You can bring him glory by doing your daily tasks with a heart of love for the Lord and hand of help towards your neighbor.  Martin Luther spoke of this in an excellent way.  Here’s an example from a house-sermon preached by Luther in 1534 on Matthew 22:34-46.  I realize this is a bit longer than my normal posts, but I believe it is worth quoting in full.  (Note especially the phrases where Luther talks about the monk in us all and the maid dusting the house.)

“But Christ gets right to the point…and immediately responds: ‘the first and greatest thing one can do is not adorning the temple or offering sacrifices, but to love God with all one’s heart and the neighbor as oneself.  I know that you Pharisees would have been very happy if I had answered that what the priests perform in the temple is the highest thing.  But I will not do that; rather I shall cite as foremost the basic, ordinary things which God has commanded for everyone to do, namely, to love God and one’s neighbor, in keeping with what he commanded through Moses.’”

“The Lord’s reply is especially irksome, that the everyday routine works which people are commanded to do, namely, that they are to love God and the neighbor, supersede all other works, regardless of how they shine and glitter.  The fact is, not only the Pharisees among the Jews, and the hypocrites under the papacy, have regarded human traditions as more important than God’s commandments; for there is a little monk that sticks in all of us from youth on.  We, too, regard the ordinary works God has commanded as insignificant, but the special, diverse works done by the Carthusians, monks, and hermits, about which God has commanded nothing, as especially noteworthy.”

“However, our Lord God is averse to such distinction.  He does not prefer one before another, nor does he exclude anyone from serving him, no matter how lowly he might be.  Instead, he enjoins upon everyone to love God and his neighbor.  Since God seeks nothing extraordinary from us and tolerates no distinctions, we must conclude that, when a maid, who has faith in Christ, dusts the house, her work is more pleasing in service to God than that of St. Anthony in the wilderness.  That is Christ’s meaning here.  This is the highest commandment: to love God and one’s neighbor.  God is not concerned about the rules of the Franciscans, Dominicans, or other monks, but wants us to serve him obediently and love the neighbor.  They may consider their monastic rules to be something wonderful and special, but before God they are nothing.  The very highest, best, and holiest work is when one loves God and the neighbor, whether a person is a monk or nun, priest or layperson, great or small” (p. 75).

Near the end of the sermon, Luther cuts deeper.

“Therefore, what will happen on judgment day is that many a maidservant who did not know whether she had done anything good all her life will be preferred before a Carthusian monk who has the appearance of great holiness and yet has loved neither God nor his neighbor.  There God will pronounce this sentence: This maid has served her mistress in harmony with my commandment, has looked after the house, and so forth; since she has done this in faith, she shall be saved; but, Carthusian, you did what you wanted to do, serving no one but yourself and your own idol; therefore you are damned.  That will be the verdict on Judgment Day” (p. 77).

You can find the full sermon quoted above in volume 7 of The Complete Sermons of Martin Luther (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2000).

shane lems

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