Martin Luther on the Pandemic of His Day

This post first appeared on Kineti and is authored by Judah Gabriel Himango, one of Tabernacle of David’s teachers.

Martin Luther lived through the worst pandemic in human history and commented on some of the religious foolishness he saw. His words apply well to today’s pandemic and the foolishness among many believers. Here’s what he wrote:

Martin Luther portrait

“Others sin on the right hand. they are much too rash and reckless, tempting God and disregarding everything which might counteract death and the plague. They disdain the use of medicines; they do not avoid places and persons infected by the plague, but lightheartedly make sport of it and wish to prove how independent they are. They say that is is God’s punishment; if he wants to protect them he can do so without medicines or our carefulness. This is not trusting God but tempting them. God has created medicines and provided us with intelligence to guard and take good care of the body so that we can live in good health.

If one makes no use of intelligence or medicine when he could do so without detriment to his neighbor, such a person injures his body and must beware lest he become a suicide in God’s eyes. By the same reasoning a person might forego eating and drinking, clothing and shelter, and boldly proclaim his faith that if God wanted to preserve him from starvation and cold, he could do so without food and clothing. Actually that would be suicide. It is even more shameful for a person to pay no heed to his own body to fail to protect it against he plague the best he is able, and then to infect and poison others who might have remained alive if he had taken care of his body as he should have. He is thus responsible before God for his neighbor’s death and is a murderer many times over. Indeed, such people behave as though a house were burning in the city and nobody were trying to put the fire out. Instead they give leeway to the flames so that the whole city is consumed, saying that if God so willed, he could save the city without water to quench the fire.”

-Martin Luther, 1527, Whether to Flee from Dying