October 28 – The Reformation and WORK

October 28, 2017 Randy Bushey

~by Randy Bushey: So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God (1Cor.10:31).

 Can you picture the scene? The obscure Augustinian monk, in full monastic garb, treks down the street of Wittenberg clutching a freshly-penned paper.

When he arrives at the Castle Church, he nails his document to the heavy wooden door – a sort of public bulletin board.

Martin Luther had hoped that his 95 Theses – a series of observations and criticisms against the crude commercialization of the Roman Catholic Church posted 500 years ago this week (on October 31st) – would evoke debate among his peers at the university in which he taught, or the monastery wherein he lived.

It did not happen.

But what did occur in the 16th century – an unstoppable seismic shift, the aftershocks of which reverberate today – was lightyears beyond what Luther intended.

He hungered for reformation. He unwittingly began a revolution.

For without Luther’s permission, his students translated the document from Latin to German, and using the power of the printing press invented only decades earlier, began to distribute copies.

In a classic case of pre-21st century “social networking”, within 2 weeks the conversation in most German pubs was about Luther’s censures of pope and church.

And within the month, the critical paper from the pen of the unknown German professor was being discussed throughout the Continent.

The resulting Protestant Reformation had obvious ramifications in theology; but what is often overlooked is the impact the movement had on our understanding of politics, economics, and marriage and family.

And the Reformers changed how we think about vocational work.

Many Christians have a negative view of vocation, concluding that work is a result of the curse. However, in the creation of man the Lord gave Adam meaningful work to do: physical labour in caring for the garden, and mental effort in naming the animals. And all this was before Adam and Eve sinned by disobeying God’s specific command.

Work was given as a gift from God. He is a worker, and as those created in His image we are also workers.

The Reformers played a significant role in their era by demonstrating that all work could be done to the glory of God: sacred and secular, intellectual and physical.

As they recovered biblical authority in the lives of Christ-followers, they understood what should have been obvious: Jesus (a carpenter), together with Peter, James, John (fishermen) and later the Apostle Paul (a tentmaker), all worked with their hands in physical – but necessary and therefore valuable – work.

The Reformers’ thinking – and practice – laid the groundwork for a Christian worldview on work today. Work is more than simply having a job, being productive, or even creating personal or community wealth. It is more than paying a mortgage or bringing home a paycheque to feed a family.

Work is a fundamental dimension of human nature, an core expression of human existence.

It provides meaning, significance, and satisfaction in creativity, problem-solving and achieving solutions, in producing a valuable result.

And so the Reformers saw all work as accomplished for the Lord, if done according to one’s ability and consistent with their calling.

John Calvin: “For every work performed in obedience to one’s calling, no matter how ordinary and common, is radiant—most valuable in the eyes of our Lord.”

William Tyndale: “If we look externally, there is a difference betwixt the washing of dishes and preaching the Word of God; but as touching to please God, in relation to His call, none at all.”

Takeaway: A biblical worldview on labour – recovered by Luther and his contemporaries – encourages the seeking of excellence in all work, recognizing that every follower of Christ has a vocation, a calling, all to be done to His glory.