In the early days of the Reformation even reformers in England and France were being referred to as “Lutherans,” and Martin Luther’s translation of the Bible was such a runaway success that Nietzsche would later call it “The best German book,” and “our only real book so far, compared with which nearly everything else is merely ‘literature.’”
The German reformer was no stranger to the cult of personality, and the lust and pride that can accompany seeing ones name in print. But at his best he also realized how destructive both those temptations could be to individuals and communities that are trying to follow Christ.
“If, however, you feel inclined to think you have made it, flattering yourself with your own little books, teaching, or writing, because you have done it beautifully and preached excellently; if you are highly pleased when someone praises you in the presence of others; if you perhaps look for praise, and would sulk or quit what you were doing if you did not get it –
if you are of that stripe, dear friend, then take yourself by the ears, and if you do this in the right way you will find a beautiful pair of big, long, shaggy, donkey ears. Then don’t spare any expense! Decorate them with golden bells, so that people will be able to hear you wherever you go, point their fingers at you, and say, ‘See, see! There goes that clever beast, who can write such clever books and preach so remarkably well.’ That very moment you will be blessed and blessed beyond measure in the kingdom of heaven, that is the ‘heaven’ where hell fire is prepared for the devil and his angels.”