A Discussion and Analysis Of some of his Contributions As Well as their Social, Political and Economic Impacts Since the Thirteen Colonies first united, the United States has had one of the strongest economies in the world. Over the years, many theorists have had varying opinions concerning the reason for this nation’s strong economic standing. One reason that has often been overlooked is that a great many of this nation’s workers have been influenced by the Protestant work ethic. The philosophy behind this work ethic has driven many workers to attain as much as possible at their jobs during their lifetimes.
If one man were to be given credit for the development of the Protestant work ethic it would have to be Martin Luther. In the course of the next several pages this researcher will examine the ethic that has had such a great impact on the United State’s economy and on the economies of other nations. It has been suggested by such writers as Weber and Smith that the Protestant work ethic first developed around the word “calling.” Basically, this term has a religious connotation which is a task set by God. However, gradually this term was expanded to the point where it covered many of man’s activities. During the Protestant Reformation, the term “calling” started to take on a new meaning.
Fulfilling one’s duty in worldly affairs became a task of extreme importance. gradually, fulfilling one’s duty was not only important but it became the moral obligation of every individual (the highest form of moral activity). Before the Reformation, the Catholic Church did not believe that everyday world activities had a religious significance. As a result of Luther these world activities were quite important in adhering to God’s wishes. Rather than devote one’s life to worshipping God through prayer, and instead of sacrificing all worldly goods to follow Christ, the Protestants believed that the task of every person is to fulfill (to the best of his/her ability) their tasks on earth.
This unique conception of the word “calling” was developed by Luther during his first active decade as a reformer. At first he believed, like many other theologians, that everyday world activities were activities of the flesh. Although these activities were willed by God, they were nonetheless morally neutral. However, gradually Luther began to protest against the life of the monks. He criticized them as leading a life “devoid of value as a means of justification before God, but he also looks upon its renunciation of the duties of this world as a product of selfishness, withdrawing from temporal obligations.” This was in direct contrast to the everyday labors of man. These worldly activities were outward expressions of man’s love for others and for God.
Thus, according to Luther, the only way to live up to the expectations God has for us is to fulfill our worldly duties. A very important point that Luther makes in reference to callings is that each calling has the same worth in the eyes of God. The effect of the Reformation that was initiated by Luther was that worldly labor was given religious sanction. This stands opposed to the Catholic tradition which did not give such worldly matters any moral emphasis.
Luther stated that people may attain salvation in any walk of life. it did not matter what a person did during their lifetime as long as they worked as hard as possible. In hard work and dedication to one’s calling, salvation could be achieved. Before Luther professed these beliefs, people placed little emphasis on the daily tasks they had to complete. Jobs had little meaning except that they placed bread on the table to eat. However, with Luther’s concept of the “calling” people now had a moral reasons to work as hard as they could. The jobs of people were given religious sanction and this lead to workers striving to attain more in their jobs. Thus, there can be no doubt that Luther changed the attitudes of people toward their roles in society.
People placed a new emphasis on their work roles. In the following pages the effect that this had on the economy will be examined. The Foundation