Luther, Opposable Thumbs, and the Work/Rest Balance

Opposable Thumbs and the Work Rest Balance

I once read about the concept of an opposable mind. It’s a great way to describe truths which appear to not easily agree.

Think of it like this: Humans have opposable thumbs. Our thumbs apply pressure in one direction and our fingers apply pressure in the other direction – and that’s how we can grab things.

In the same way, sometimes two statements push in opposite directions. But it’s not that they contradict each other. They’re applying pressure so that the truth in the middle can be grasped and truly understood.

Keeping that in mind, here are some great quotes from Martin Luther about the value of rest and work.


Some strong words from Luther to his friend Phillip Melanchthon:

“I command you and the entire circle of my friends to force you, under the threat of an anathema, to observe regular habits for the sake of your health so that you do not commit suicide [by overwork] and then pretend you did it in obedience to God. For we also serve God by doing nothing, in fact, in no way more than by doing nothing. For this reason God, above all things, wanted the Sabbath so rigidly kept. See to it that you do not despise this.”

And elsewhere on the value of work:

“Your work is a very sacred matter. God delights in it, and through it He wants to bestow His blessing on you….For the world does not consider labor a blessing. Therefore it flees and hates it… But the pious who fear the Lord labor with a ready and cheerful heart; for they know God’s command and will.”

“Work should rather be done to serve God by it, to avoid idleness. and to satisfy His commandments, since He says to Adam (Gen 3:19): ‘In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread.’”

“No doubt God could create children without man and woman. but he does not intend to do so. Rather, He joins man and woman to make it look as if man and woman do the procreating. Yet He, hidden under this mask, is the one who does it. God bestows every good thing, but you must “pitch in” and “take the bull by the horns.” That is, you must work and supply God with a reason and a covering. You see, God wants no lazy idlers: but we should work faithfully and diligently, every one of us, according to his calling and office; then He will bless and prosper our efforts.”

Photo Credit: Matteo Staltari (Creative Commons)

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