Luther: The Ten Commandments

A new book on Luther’s Spirituality was recently released as the latest edition in the series on The Classics of Western Spirituality. This volume is superbly edited and translated by Philip D. W. Krey and Peter D. S. Krey, and includes classic texts like The Freedom of a Christian, as well as lesser known writings such as, “On Jacob's Ladder,” written in Luther’s later years (around the age of sixty). The edition also includes two versions of a poem on the ten commandments. Both are well worth reading (and memorizing). I have reprinted the long version here in full (pp. 235-36).

The Ten Commandments

These are the holy Ten Commands,
A gift from God through Moses’ hands.
God’s servant true, he carried them
From high on Sinai Mountain. Lord have mercy.

The Lord your God am I alone;
No other gods besides me own.
To me shall you your trust impart;
Love me with all of your heart. Lord have mercy.

Do not misuse or take in vain
The Lord your God’s most holy name.
On good and right heap not your praise,
Unless it is what God says. Lord have mercy.

The seventh day for you is blessed
That you and all may take your rest.
Let go the work you need to do,
That God may work within you. Lord have mercy.

To father, mother—all parents—
Give honor and obedience.
Where you can serve them by your hand
Long is the life you’ll command. Lord have mercy.

Though angry, you must never kill;
Revenge and hate are not God’s will.
Be patient and let mercy show,
And, what’s more, treat well your foe. Lord have mercy.

Be faithful to your marriage vows;
Let no one else your heart arouse.
Aspire that you be chaste and pure,
Modest, respectful, mature. Lord have mercy.

No goods or money shall you steal.
In unjust profits do not deal.
You should assist with generous hand
The poor who live in your land. Lord have mercy.

You shall not lie or cause deceit.
Malicious words do not repeat.
Instead, defend your neighbor’s name,
And hide away all their shame. Lord have mercy.

Do not long for your neighbor’s house
Or goods or property or spouse.
But wish your neighbor all things good,
Just as for yourself you would. Lord have mercy.

God gives these great commandments so
You, human one, your sins may know
And that you clearly can perceive
How before God you should live. Lord have mercy.

Lord Jesus Christ, we seek your aid;
Come mediate for us, we pray.
Without you are our works in vain,
Deserving naught else but pain. Lord have mercy.


Anonymous said…
David I wanted to let you know I'm enjoying your blog. I think you and I were fellow Pui Tak tutors back in the day. Anyway, keep up the great posts!

Thanks for the comment! I miss my time at Pui Tak; those were excellent years. Feel free to send me an email sometime. I'd love to hear what you're up to.
Anonymous said…
Thanks for bring this to our attention David. Love the prayerful poem too.
Shane said…
I don't suppose that poem's around auf Deutsch?