Monks, Hermits, and the Devil’s Deception (Luther)

We should never withdraw from people, for people are the neighbors God calls us to love and serve

“Is it serving God when you crawl into a corner where you help and bring solace to no one?  What need does our Lord God have of the service you perform in a corner?  The one who wants to serve God should not crawl into an isolated cell but remain among people and serve them, where he can rest assured that thereby he is serving God, for he has commanded it and said, ‘The second is like unto it.’”

 

At one time in his life, Martin Luther was a monk in the Augustinian order, a strict branch of monasticism that emphasized separation from the world and vigorous spiritual disciplines.  However, after discovering the freedom of the gospel, Luther stopped living a monastic life because he found his righteousness and salvation in Christ, not in strict spiritual disciplines or separation from the world.  He went on to speak against monasticism because it was often a works-righteousness endeavor and because monasticism made it impossible for someone to love and serve his neighbor.  Here’s how he put it in a sermon from 1532 (on Mt. 22:34-46):

“In the papacy it was very common for all knights, soldiers, jurists, and people of this sort, who imagined they had been in an improper, execrable calling, to say, ‘Up til now we have served the world, but now we want to begin serving God.’  For this reason many of them entered the monastery and became monks and hermits.”

“However, this was a devilish deception.  Is it serving God when you crawl into a corner where you help and bring solace to no one?  What need does our Lord God have of the service you perform in a corner?  The one who wants to serve God should not crawl into an isolated cell but remain among people and serve them, where he can rest assured that thereby he is serving God, for he has commanded it and said, ‘The second is like unto it.’”

“…The lesson, therefore, very closely shows… that God looks an all the good and bad we do to the neighbor as being done to him.  If, when we serve our neighbor, each one would consider it as being done to God, the whole world would be filled with God-pleasing service.  A servant in the stable, a maid in the kitchen, a boy in school, they would be nothing but servants of God, were they to willingly perform whatever father and mother, master and mistresses commanded….”

Of course we should take time to pray, read Scripture, worship God with his people, and meditate on the great works of God.  But we should never withdraw from people, for people are the neighbors God calls us to love and serve!

Rev. Shane Lems is a minister in the Orthodox Presbyterian Church and serves as pastor of Covenant Presbyterian Church in Hammond, Wis. This article appeared on his blog and is used with permission.