The Second One

Michael Wittmer

READ : Deuteronomy 15:7-11

Do not be hard-hearted or tight-fisted toward your needy neighbor. You should rather open your hand, willingly lending enough to meet the need, whatever it may be. (vv. 7-8)

When the bubonic plague came to Wittenberg in 1527, many people wondered whether they should flee for their lives or remain behind to care for the sick. Martin Luther encouraged everyone who could to leave, except doctors, pastors, public officials, and those upon whom the sick relied.

To persuade these essential people to stay, Luther suggested that their care for the dying was actually love to Christ. He wrote: “This I well know, that if it were Christ or his mother who were laid low by illness, everybody would be so solicitous and would gladly become a servant or helper. Everyone would want to be bold and fearless; nobody would flee but everyone would come running . . . If you wish to serve Christ and to wait on him, very well, you have your sick neighbor close at hand. Go to him and serve him, and you will surely find Christ in him” (“Whether One May Flee from a Deadly Plague,” in Martin Luther’s Basic Theological Writings, ed. Timothy F. Lull, p. 747).

This bond between God and humans is the reason Jesus declared that the greatest command is actually two: love God, and your neighbor as yourself (Matt. 22:39). We only love God as much as we love the least among us.


Father, please love your children through me today.