Wise Words from Herr Luther

We pastors would do well to heed these words of advice from the Blessed Martin Luther:

How the World Rewards Service

Losing his good reputation and being thrown in prison was certainly Joseph’s worst hardship. What disgraceful wages he received for his years of faithful service! All of his impeccable character and hard work were rewarded with punishment and a ruined reputation. We serve, teach, counsel, comfort, and do what God tells us to do. For the most part, we do this for undeserving people from whom we get nothing in return except hatred, envy, and suffering. It seems that our lives are wasted on being kind to people who don’t appreciate it.

Don’t ever expect the world to acknowledge or reward your faithfulness and hard work. The opposite often happens, as Joseph’s life shows. Therefore, make sure that you direct your service and life elsewhere. Don’t look for favor and kindness from the world. Its favor can quickly turn into furious anger.

If you are called as a pastor or teacher, or if you are in some other position, set this goal for yourself: I will do my job faithfully without expecting any reward from the people I serve. I won’t assume that they will be grateful to me. Rather, I will bless others the same way my heavenly Father hands out his blessings. He gives money, talents, peace, and health to even the most ungrateful and evil people. I will remember Christ’s command, “You must be perfect as your Father in heaven is perfect” (Matthew 5:48). This means that we must serve people who are wicked, undeserving, and ungrateful. A few will acknowledge our service and thank us. But the others might even threaten our lives. Joseph’s example shows us what reward we can expect from the world for even the greatest of kindness–being tied up and thrown into prison.

Need I say more?


About Rev. Paul L. Beisel

Graduate of Concordia Theological Seminary, Fort Wayne, IN in 2001 (M Div.) and 2004 (S.T.M.); LC-MS Pastor and Adjunct Instructor for John Wood Community College; Husband of Amy and father of Susan, Elizabeth, Martin, and Theodore.
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5 Responses to Wise Words from Herr Luther

  1. Great quotation. Thanks.

  2. Brian Yamabe says:

    Sounds like good advice for parents and spouses.

  3. Marlena says:

    “This means that we must serve people who are wicked, undeserving, and ungrateful.”

    Isn’t this the description of anyone, even ourselves? I don’t think anyone should do any job for the recognition or glory.

  4. Rev. Paul L. Beisel says:

    Yes, this is often true when we are on the receiving end of things. But in so far as we are the givers (pastors, teachers, etc.) Luther is simply advising that we do not expect to be rewarded for our work and service. I agree with you that no one should do something merely for recognition (like I used to do in high school getting elected to offices 🙂

  5. Rev. Mike Grieve says:

    I used to think I would get rewards for my newspaper stories. I did get honored once by the VFW for good coverage of VFW events and happenings. Since I’ve been here I’ve probably had no more than 5 comments on any sermon I’ve given, good or bad. I guess negative recognition counts too, huh? Somehow, the comment “good sermon” doesn’t say anything to me, but then again, maybe I wouldn’t want to know.

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