The Power—and Danger—in Luther’s Concept of Work

Dan Doriani | May 16, 2016

Martin Luther probably did more than any Protestant to establish the theology of work many Christians embrace today. Like no theologian before him, he insisted on the dignity and value of all labor. Luther did more than break the split between sacred and secular work—he empowered all believers to know their work served humanity and enjoyed God’s full blessing.

He insisted that the farmer shoveling manure and the maid milking her cow please God as much as the minister preaching or praying.

Further, as we work in our God-given station in life, we become agents of his providential care: “God is milking the cows through the vocation of the milkmaid.” Through our hands God answers the prayers of his children. We pray for daily bread at night, and bakers rise in the morning to bake it. The same holds for clothing: God “gives the wool, but not without our labor. If it is on the sheep, it makes no garment.” Humans must sheer, card, and spin.

Through our work the naked are clothed, the hungry fed, the sick healed. Through our work we please our Maker and love our neighbor.


Developing a Doctrine of Vocation 

Luther developed his doctrine of work not in the abstract but through his dispute with…

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