What would Jesus think of weapons?

"When the donkey is doing too well ..." - 13 Luther quotes that still apply today

Nobody had such a lasting impact on the German language as Martin Luther (1483 - 1546). He achieved the great coup above all with the translation of the Bible from the basic Greek text into German. He wanted everyone to be able to read and understand the Bible in German. That is why he chose language that was easy to understand and pictorial. He even created new words when there weren't any suitable ones. More than 300 terms, slang idioms and proverbs are still used today. For example, Orient, stop-and-go, power word, blasphemous mouth, ardor, being the stumbling block, throwing pearls in front of swine, putting his light under a bushel, arrogance comes before the fall, if the donkey is doing too well, he goes on the ice and dances.

The "Weimar Edition of the Works of Martin Luther" comprises around 80,000 pages in 127 volumes. This includes all of his books, but also Bible commentaries, leaflets and negotiation minutes. Almost 2,600 letters that he wrote have survived. This makes him the best-documented person of the Middle Ages.

Luther formulated his yardstick for understandable language as follows: "You have to ask the mother in the house, the children in the streets, the common man in the marketplace and look at them as they talk ..." Luther's understandable language runs not only through his translations and his theological work. He also used them when he judged everyday, social or emotional issues and brought them up. Anyone who wants to understand Martin Luther in terms of content in his diverse work must first of all understand him as a Christian. Therefore, at the beginning, a few quotes on the life of faith.

1. Luther on God and Jesus:

"A sip of water or beer will drive away thirst, a piece of bread will drive away hunger, and Christ will drive away death."

Luther's greatest concern: To make it clear to people how they can live permanently in communion with God. In response to the question of how sinful human beings come into contact with their Creator again, this groundbreaking insight from 1517 follows: "Christ alone makes me righteous, without doing all my works and without preventing all my sins." In other words, just believing in and trusting in Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is enough. According to Luther, he is the key person. "Whoever does not find God in Jesus Christ will never find him, he looks for him wherever he will." For Luther it is clear: "When we have Christ, we have everything our heart desires.

2. Luther on faith:

"Faith is a lively, daring confidence in God's grace. And such confidence makes one happy, courageous and full of lust for God and all creatures."

The Reformer is also convinced: "Faith and love are the whole being of a Christian. Faith receives, love gives."

Another of his key statements is only possible because Luther stands firmly on the foundation of the Christian faith. In his book "Von der Freiheit einer Christenmenschen" (From the Freedom of a Christian Man) he defined evangelical freedom for the first time in 1520: "A Christian man is a free lord over all things and is subject to no one. A Christian man is a servant of all things and is subject to everyone." These two seemingly contradicting sentences go back to a statement made by the Apostle Paul in the New Testament. "I am free in all things and have made myself servant to everyone." The total of 30 theses in Luther's book mark a boundary in the history of ideas between the Middle Ages and modern times.

3. Luther on the Bible:

"The road is safe, the wrong way is dangerous. God's word leads to life, but self-conceit (complacency) leads to death."

For Martin Luther, the Word of God, the Bible, is like a road that leads to life - in the end even to eternal life. After many decades of intensive Bible study, he sums up: "In the Bible, God himself speaks to us like a person speaks to his friend." The theologian also had this experience: "Holy Scripture is a herb; the more you rub it, the more it smells. As the word is, the soul becomes of it too."

In another picture, Luther characterizes the Bible as a book that is full of surprises: "The Holy Scriptures are a river in which an elephant has to swim and a lamb can walk." He recommends to all those who do not know what to do with it: "God's word is not to be joked with. If you cannot understand it, take your hat off to him." So: Honor instead of ridicule. For Luther there is no doubt: "The Bible is neither ancient nor modern, it is eternal."

4. Luther on prayer:

"Christians who pray are like pillars that support the roof of the world."

Luther is convinced that praying, i.e. speaking to God, can influence his decisions and thus change the world for the better - on a large and small scale. And that is why he always gives advice on prayer: "A good prayer should not be long, nor should it be drawn out for a long time, but should be often and warmly." Another time he recommends: "Pray as if all work would be of no use and work as if every prayer would be of no use."

Luther therefore advocates a frequent exchange with God, no matter what situation a person is in: "That is why the old fathers praised the prayers that you sigh up to heaven with a word or two. You can also do that while reading , writes or does some other work. " And for stressful times, Luther had this advice: "Today I have a lot to do, so I have to pray a lot."

5. Luther on the meaning of work:

"Nobody dies from work. But by going single and idle, people lose their lives and limb; for a person is born to work like a bird is born to fly."

With such statements Luther laid the first foundations of a Protestant work ethic. According to this, work is a duty that cannot be questioned. So the reformer warns: "It is the greatest temptation that no one faithfully fulfills his profession, but that everyone wants to surrender to leisure." Interpreted provocatively, this means that if you work too little and instead allow yourself too much free time, you are sinning. According to the view of things at the time, work is the focus of life - leisure time is of secondary importance.

However, according to Luther, people would do well not to look at work for themselves: "People should and must work and do something, but also know that someone else is nourishing them than their work, namely God's blessing." But Luther also emphasizes the importance of things that are detached from work: "One cannot serve God with work alone, but also with celebrations and rest."

6. Luther on the lie:

"A lie is like a snowball: the longer you roll it, the bigger it gets."

A comparison that everyone probably understands, because who has never said the untruth and experienced the consequences? Another time the theologian compares the lie with the animal that stands for seduction in the Bible: "The snake is the image of the lie, because it always writhes whether it is walking or whether it is lying down; only when it is dead is you just." So an appeal to always choose the truth - also because it is in a direct relationship to conscience. That is why Luther's advice is: "Beware of a guilty conscience! You don't yet know what kind of evil worm there is. It will gnaw and bite you for life."

7. Luther on wealth and money:

"Wealth is the least thing on earth and the smallest gift that God can give to man. That is why our Lord God usually gives wealth to the rough donkeys to whom he does not grant anything else."

Whether this aphorism is a life experience of Luther or whether he has a passage from the Bible in his head? After all, in the New Testament (Matthew 6, 19-21) he translates a statement by Jesus as follows: "You should not collect treasures on earth where moths and rust devour them and where thieves break in and steal. But collect yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moths nor rust eat them and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart is also. " A matching Luther quote goes like this: "Whatever you put your heart on is actually your God."

One of Luther's observations on the subject of money is so aptly worded that it is guaranteed to pass the test of truth in the 21st century: "The concern about how one receives one's money is the most terrible servitude."

However, it is not as if Martin Luther condemned wealth, property and money in large numbers - for him, the attitude towards it is decisive: "God will let it happen that you are rich, but you should not succumb to wealth."

8. Luther on politics and the world:

"The world is like a drunken farmer: if you lift him on one side in the saddle, he falls down on the other side."

No sooner has a political crisis been overcome than there is a new one somewhere - this impression has not changed in 500 years since Luther. That is why the theologian relies on the scholars of all scientific disciplines so that the world and society remain somewhat in balance. This is made clear by this hypothesis: "If God were angry and took away all scholars from the world, people would even become beasts and wild animals. There would be no understanding, no joke, no law, but nothing but robbery, stealing, murder, adultery and harm . "

But with what man can do alone, it is not enough for Luther. He knows: "Human reason only teaches the hands and feet, but God teaches the heart." Luther probably means those virtues that he understands as the cornerstone of action: "The four main virtues have been well divided: temperance preserves the body, justice nourishes, bravery fends off, wisdom rules everything."

Cheering up personalities is not Luther's business. The reason: "Honor changes character, but never for the better, and it can easily become tyrants." In return, he may have an important piece of advice for all current social and family politicians: "You have to start with the children if things are to get better in the state."

What Luther exemplified is the determination to stand up for his opinion. When he was summoned to the Reichstag in Worms in 1521 to revoke his reformatory ideas to the emperor, he refused. With a mixture of courage, determination and trust in God, he says, "Here I stand. God help me. Amen."

9. Luther on emotional states:

"You cannot change the fact that the birds of worry and grief fly over your head. But you can prevent that they build nests in your hair."

The only question is how? Luther would not be Luther if he had no recipes against sadness. He says: "Anyone who is afflicted with the spirit of sadness should be extremely careful and be careful not to be alone." He makes it even more specific: "If you are challenged, by tribulation and despair or by a distress of conscience, then eat, drink, seek entertainment, if the thoughts of a girl help you up, so do so."

Mind you: only think of a girl! Trouble of conscience, hostility, persecution - Luther experienced all of this firsthand. That is why he knows when things get really tough: "Anyone who is plagued with sadness, despair or other heartache or has a worm in his conscience, he seriously adheres to the consolation of the divine word, then eat and drink and seek company and Conversation between godly and Christian people, it will be better for him. "

10. Holding Luther on speaking:

"To say a lot in a few words is an art. But it is great folly to use many words and yet say nothing."

For personal appearance, Luther recommends: "Come on fresh! Open your mouth! Stop soon!" Luther confesses: "I hate those who talk a lot. The truth does not make many words." He gives the advice to those who have important or interesting speeches to give: "The office or sign of a good speaker is that he should stop when he is most eager to listen to him." And for everyone who stands on church pulpits, he has this tip: "You can preach about what you want, but never preach for more than forty minutes!" Even this period of time should overwhelm some listeners.

 11. Luther on music:

"Music is the best strengthening for a sad person. It makes the heart happy again, revitalized and refreshed."

In the language of the 16th century, this Luther quote sounds like this: "Musica is the best refreshment of a sad person, as a result of which the heart is satisfied, refreshed and refreshed again." Obviously the reformer knew about the therapeutic effects of music. In addition to studying theology, he enjoyed musical training. With songs that he wrote and composed, he later created a new, extremely successful genre of church singing. Sometimes he just adopts melodies from folk songs on which he writes pious lyrics.

Nevertheless, music is only the second most important thing for Luther, because he underlines: "According to the Holy Word of God, nothing is so cheap and so much to praise and praise as music." Although the Bible comes first for him, he states: "Musica is half a discipline and discipline, it makes people more gentle and meek, more modest and more sensible." Luther is also convinced: "Music is a gift from God that drives away the devil and makes people happy."

12. Luther on love, marriage and sex:

"The wife should make sure that her husband likes coming home, and he should make sure that she is reluctant to let him go again."

There is a simple principle in Luther's quote. From later personal experience he knows: "A woman is the best companion for life." And: "There is no better thing on earth than womanly love to whom it can be bestowed."

It is granted to him - and how. It was not until the age of 42 that the former monk, who was naturally celibate, married the escaped nun Katharina von Bora. The marriage has six children. The connection works. And so the married late bloomer indulges: "I would not give up my Kathe for the sake of France and Venice, because God has given me a woman whose blessings are so much greater than her weaknesses."

But in times of spatial distance and the resulting sexual abstinence, Luther can also express himself less selectively. From one of his many trips he writes to Katharina: "If God grant that I come to Wittenberg before the winter trip, I wanted to push you that it crashes."

He also has a piece of advice on how often it should "crash" in a marriage: "The week between (combination of two and four), the women's fee, does not harm you or me, makes it a hundred and four years old." What is left of this quote today: In week two to four, it won't harm him or her.

Luther recommends this to all those who are looking for a bride - 500 years ago it was usually the man who played the active part: "If you want to get married, you should not ask about the father, but about the call of the mother of the young girl Why? Because the beer generally smells like the barrel. " In any case, according to Luther, it depends on love: "There are many more poor people who get married in the name of God than rich people who stay rich who get married for the sake of money."

13. Luther on this and that:

"The desire is just as unsatisfied after the wishes are fulfilled as it was before."

Once across life and back - for an alert and at the same time communicative person like Martin Luther, there are some worth considering details that become wisdom for him. He brought up many of these in his around 7,000 table speeches:

- "Nothing is forgotten more slowly than an insult and nothing more than a benefit."

- "There is no worse resentment in the world than that of hypocrites. There is more mercy in a highwayman and in a whore than in a hypocrite."

- "Anyone who does not love wine, women and song remains a fool all his life."

- "The wine is strong, the king is stronger, the women even stronger, the truth is strongest."

- "The world always desecrates what should be praised and praises what should be desecrated."

- "The words of Christ are always right. They have hands and feet. They go beyond all wisdom, advice and cunning of the wise."


TV theme day: 500 years of the Reformation. Everything about Martin Luther and the Reformation for a whole day on October 31, 2017 at DW Deutsch and in our online special at dw.com/kultur.Starts at 6 a.m. UTC (7 a.m. CET). Livestream: http://www.dw.com/de/media-center/live-tv/s-100817