From the Word
25 And behold, a lawyer stood up to put him to the test, saying, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” 26 He said to him, “What is written in the law? How do you read?” 27 And he answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself.” 28 And he said to him, “You have answered right; do this, and you will live.”
Luke 10:25–28, RSV
God is a jealous God and cannot suffer us to love anything above himself. God allows us indeed to love his creatures; they were created for this purpose and are good. All things that are attractive and beautiful by nature cause us to love them. This God permits us to do. But that I should cling to the creature and love it with the same love with which I love God, the Creator, this he cannot and will not allow. The love of the creature should stand far, far below our love to him; and as he is the chief good, his will is also to be loved in the highest degree above all other good.
To love God with all the heart is to love him above all creatures. I must be affectionate towards him, evermore cleave to him, depend upon him, trust him, have my desire, love and joy in him, and always think of him. To love God with all the soul is to devote your entire bodily life to him. The soul in the Scriptures signifies the life of the body, which acts through the five senses, seeing, hearing, feeling, smelling, and tasting, and everything that the soul does through the body, as eating, drinking, sleeping. All this I will give up before I forsake my God, you must be able to say. To love God with all our strength is to devote all our members and whatever we may be able to do through our bodies to the love of God, and sacrifice all rather than do anything contrary to his will. To love God with all the mind is to take to nothing except what is pleasing to God.
But there is not a man on earth who thus fulfils the law. Thus this law makes us all sinners in that not the least letter of this commandment is fulfilled even by the most holy person in the world. No one clings so firmly to God with all the heart, that he would forsake all things for God’s sake. What would we do if we had to give our lives for God’s and Christ’s sake? Still the law requires it. Therefore it is safer to confess that we are sinners, than to have respect to our works and beautiful, glittering lives.
Luther, Martin, and John Sander. Devotional Readings from Luther’s Works for Every Day of the Year. Augustana Book Concern, 1915, pp. 327–28.