“Stinging” Words—Martin Luther (1483 – 1546)

The year 1517 brought monk Martin Luther out of the shadows and into the courts of both the Pope and Emperor. Boldly challenging the practice of selling indulgences within the Roman Catholic Church, Luther soon learned such preaching was very dangerous. Refusing to be intimidated by those who sought to silence him, Luther continued to preach “stinging” words from the pulpit. In this excerpt from an open letter to Pope Leo X, he desired that others follow his example.

If you will allow people with sensitive feelings to judge, they would consider no person more stinging and unrestrained in his denunciations than Paul. Who is more stinging than the prophets? Nowadays, it is true, we are made so sensitive by the raving crowd of flatterers that we are stung as soon as we meet with disapproval. When we cannot ward off the truth with any other pretext, we flee from it by ascribing it to a fierce temper, impatience, and immodesty. What is the good of salt if it does not bite? Of what use is the edge of the sword if it does not cut? “Cursed is he who does the work of the Lord deceitfully…” [Jer. 48:10].[1]


[1] Martin Luther, “An Open Letter to Pope Leo X,” in On Christian Liberty, trans. W. A. Lambert (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2003), 78.