Praise-Seeking Pastors [or Shaggy Donkey Ears] (Luther)

I probably don’t have to explain the celebrity pastor ethos that is a major problem in Christianity today. In fact, some pastors want to be famous and well-known. Social media has made this problem worse. Anyway, in the “Preface to the Wittenberg Edition of Luther’s German Writings”, Martin Luther had some cutting things to say about pastors/theologians who think they are quite significant and desire fame. After explaining the essential importance of Scripture for theology, Luther mentioned prayer, meditating on the word, and suffering – all of which bring humility and dependence on the Word. Then he wrote this – and this is how he ends his “Preface.” Read it a few times!

If, however, you feel and are inclined to think you have made it, flattering yourself with your own little books, teaching, or writing, because you have done it beautifully and preached excellently; if you are highly pleased when someone praises you in the presence of others; if you perhaps look for praise, and would sulk or quit what you are doing if you did not get it – if you are of that stripe, dear friend, then take yourself by the ears, and if you do this the right way you will find a beautiful pair of big, long, shaggy donkey ears. Then do not spare any expense! Decorate them with golden bells, so that people will be able to hear you wherever you go, point their fingers at you, and say, “See, See! There goes that clever beast, who can write such exquisite books and preach so remarkably well.” That very moment you will be blessed and blessed beyond measure in the kingdom of heaven. Yes, in that heaven where hellfire is ready for the devil and his angels. To sum up: Let us be proud and seek honor in the places where we can. But in this book the honor is God’s alone, as it is said, “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble” [1 Pet. 5:5]; to whom be glory, world without end, Amen

Martin Luther, “Preface to The Wittenberg Edition of Luther’s German Writings” in Martin Luther’s Basic Theological Writings, 3rd Edition (Fortress Press: Minneapolis), p. 42.

Shane Lems
Covenant Presbyterian Church (OPC)
Hammond, WI, 54015