From the Word
And when he had ceased speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch.”
Luke 5:4, RSV
From LutherWhen Christ wished to bestow his gifts upon Peter and the others he did not cause the fish to leap into the boat without labor or nets, as he very well might have done. He commanded them to put out into the deep and let down their nets. They are to engage in the handicraft they understood and were accustomed to. Christ keeps aloof from the lazy, unfaithful idlers who will not do as they have been commanded, and will not keep their hands and feet from straying. Thus he teaches a twofold lesson, that he will not give us anything unless we work for it, and that the things that we obtain do not come from our work, but from God’s help and blessing. You are to work, but you are not to depend upon that work, as if that which resulted from it were of your own accomplishment.
Our work produces and bestows nothing. Yet it is necessary as a means through which we may receive what God gives. The disciples must use their hands to let down the nets and draw them in, if they wish to secure anything, and must be willing to do so. Yet they must acknowledge that their labor did not bring about the result, otherwise they would have succeeded without Christ in the first place. He permits them to make a trial and discover by experience that the toil of this entire night has been in vain and to no purpose.
This he teaches us by daily experience in all kinds of affairs and doings on earth. Very often he permits us to labor long and arduously without results, till it becomes bitterly painful to us, and we are forced to complain with Peter: “We have toiled all night, and have taken nothing.” This he does that we may not venture to depend upon our labor, but may know that he must grant it success, and that we have not secured this through our own efforts, skill, or diligence. All human life and nature are such that, until God gives the increase, we may often labor long and much to no purpose. But the work is not to cease on that account, nor should any man be found without work. God giveth the increase.
Luther, Martin, and John Sander. Devotional Readings from Luther’s Works for Every Day of the Year. Augustana Book Concern, 1915, pp. 288–89.