23. Thou hast held me by my right hand. The right hand denotes happiness, prosperity, and success and, as it were, the good will of fortune, as the left hand denotes adversity and hindrances. But the right hand of the righteous is the favor and grace of God, by which they live, go forward prosperously, and reign. The left hand is their earthly misfortune. Conversely the right hand of the wicked is the right hand of wickedness and prosperity in earthly things. That is where they fix their right hand and make their choice. And this is understood in a moral sense. [Ps. 1:3 tells us what the right hand of the righteous is: “Whatsoever he does will prosper.” The hands are works. Prosperous works denote the right hand and the works before God, because He is my right hand. Thus Ps. 45:4 says: “Set out, proceed prosperously.” Allegorically it refers to the church, which stands at the right hand. Anagogically it is the future church that is to be established at the right hand. Morally, as I have said, it is the grace of faith. And Christ holds the right hand of His own, namely, the spirit. But the flesh is the left hand.
The world is always and in all things opposed to Christ, as Pomponius Mela writes about Egypt. Therefore what is the right hand for one is the left hand for the other, as is clear when two people face each other, for the one is to the left of the other. Jacob, who did not like this sign, changed hands, putting his right hand on the one whom Joseph had stationed at his left (Gen. 48:14).
It is the same way with other positions. What is above for one is below for the other, and vice versa. What one carries on the head, another crushes with his feet. For to the ungodly the things of the world are above them, and they carry them on their shoulders. But heavenly things they tread underfoot. The saints, on the contrary, tread on the world and have heavenly things above them on their shoulders. Thus in Ps. 60:6 Shechem, that is, “the shoulder,” is divided, so that the ungodly carry earthly things, while the saints carry heavenly things. Therefore to the question whether they are on opposite ends of the pole the answer is, “Indeed they are.” For they turn the feet where we turn the head, and we turn the feet where they turn the head.
In the same manner, what is before one is behind the other, and vice versa. Hence the last are first, and the first last (Matt. 19:30; 20:16). So the right are left, and the left right. So the lower are upper, and the upper lower, from different points of view. Similarly, in other matters, as here is nowhere, nowhere is here. The living are dead, and the dead living; the poor are rich, and the rich poor; the lords are slaves, and the slaves lords; the naked are clothed, and the clothed naked. [Seneca said, “He is nowhere who is everywhere.” Again, “He who is in one is everywhere.” So also Bernard and Scipio: “I am never less alone than when I am alone”].
Luther’s works, vol. 10: First Lectures I