“God Seeks Nothing Extraordinary From Us”

Here’s a great excerpt from a 1534 sermon Martin Luther preached on Matthew 22:34-46.  These are good words to think about in response to the modern-day “radical” movement.

“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 exercise love to 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.”

A few paragraphs later, Luther summarizes this discussion well:

“…We, therefore, must learn to think and answer like this: Not something extraordinary, but to love God and your neighbor, that is the best way of life!  If I do that, I don’t have to be searching for another way.  It is so very true that loving God and the neighbor is the greatest and best work, even though it appears to be so very ordinary and insignificant.”

Martin Luther, Luther’s Sermons, vol. 7, pages 75-6.  Also see my review of Matthew Redmond’s helpful book, The God of the Mundane.

shane lems


3 comments on ““God Seeks Nothing Extraordinary From Us”

  1. Celal says:

    Ok I’ll bite :-)

    Martin Luther is enjoining the love of God and man over the following of “monkish” rules. Right ? And is there any greater love for God and man than to “lose one’s life for Jesus and for the Gospel” (Mark 8:35) ?

    The little “radical movement” throw away comment is I presume a jab at David Platt’s book by the name ? In which case, I think you are being unfair.


  2. Austin David says:

    Perhaps “losing one’s life for Christ” is more akin to self-forgetfulness, and rather that focusing on ‘how much you do,’ instead setting your “eyes on Christ the author and perfecter of our faith?” Just a thought ;o) I believe another aspect of “losing one’s life for the sake of Christ” pertains to crucifying the flesh. I think you raise a good point- but I have a hard time with the “do something radical” type mentalities that seem to permeate our churches. Not that we shouldn’t do radical things- but putting the focus here almost invariably breeds self-righteousness. If we set our eyes on Christ and ask our Lord to reveal in full who He is and what He has done on our behalf through His Word- the Spirit will do the ‘radical’ work. Just my feeble thoughts for the sake of conversation Celal. Loved the Luther quote guys!


  3. Ruben Cardenas says:

    That is spot on and exactly what we need to hear today as much as the Christians in Europe during Luther’s day. Right on. Horton’s got a book coming out this year called “Ordinary,” which I’m sure will come from this biblical teaching on calling/vocation and the Christian life.


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