From the Word
But there was found in it a poor wise man, and he by his wisdom delivered the city. Yet no one remembered that poor man.
Ecclesiastes 9:15, RSV
Wherever we turn our eyes we see, in all conditions of life, a flood of terrible examples of ingratitude for the precious gospel. We see how kings, princes and lords quarrel and fight, envy and hate one another, oppressing their own people and destroying their own countries; they tax themselves with not so much as a single Christian thought about ameliorating the wretchedness of Germany. The noblemen rake and rend, robbing whom they can, prince or otherwise, and especially the poor Church. Townsmen and farmers are extremely avaricious, extortionate and treacherous; they fearlessly perpetrate every sort of insolence and wickedness, and without shame and punishment. The earth cries to heaven, unable longer to tolerate its oppression.
But why multiply words? It is in vain so far as the world is concerned; no admonition will avail. The world remains the devil’s own. Notwithstanding the world’s refusal to be influenced by the recognition of God’s goodness, and in spite of the fact that we are obliged daily to see, hear and suffer the world’s increasing ungratefulness the longer it stands, we must not allow ourselves to be led into error; for we will be unable to change it. We must preach against the evil of ingratitude wherever possible, severely censuring it, and faithfully admonish all men to guard against it. Although compelled to live among the ungrateful, we are not for that reason to fall into error, nor to cease from doing good.
But if your good works are wrought with the object of securing the thanks and applause of the world, your reward will justly be that of him who crushes with his teeth the hollow nut only to defile his mouth. If, when you meet with ingratitude, you angrily wish to pull down mountains, and resolve to give up doing good, you are no longer a Christian. You injure yourself and accomplish nothing. Let the God-fearing Christians give evidence of their willingness to hear the Word of God. Let them show by their lives a consciousness of the great blessing conferred by those from whom they received the gospel. Let their hearts and lips ever be ready with the happy declaration: “God be praised.” Such manifestation of gratitude assuredly must result when we comprehend what God has given us.
Luther, Martin, and John Sander. Devotional Readings from Luther’s Works for Every Day of the Year. Augustana Book Concern, 1915, pp. 160–62.