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Martin Luther King Jr

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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

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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

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,

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

The Foundation of Capitalistic Thought As a result of Luther placing such

emphasis on a person’s calling, people began to take pride in their work. Instead of placing

all of one’s emphasis on religious matters, people began to think of earning a living in the

best way possible in order to serve God. Luther instilled in these people the concept that

time is money. If a person spends his time at meaningful work he will earn money and

become successful. However, if that person decides to sit idly or take a rest, money that

could have been earned is lost forever. thus, Luther’s emphasis on the fact that people

should work as hard as possible lead many to the conclusion that time should not be

wasted. The fact that money can “grow” was realized by the workers of this time.

Increasing one’s assets is a sign of a successful businessman, thus it is also a sign of

someone who is successful in the eyes of God. If money is invested properly, a person can

receive interest and increase his financial status. If a person has an animal that is breeding,

that animal’s offspring will increase that person’s financial status. In order to become a

successful businessman it is often necessary to borrow money. However, in order to insure

that a steady flow of money is guaranteed, a person must build up a reputation as a

prompt payer. If one is late in paying debts, there will come a day when that person will

not find a lender. If one is a prompt payer, there will always be a steady flow of cash for

that person. Since success is necessary to please God, and money is necessary to achieve

success, people made sure that they paid their debts promptly. Since credit is so important,

people began to realize the importance of impressing their creditors. If a person builds a

reputation of a worker that labors from early in the morning to late each evening, that

person will be able to attain credit. If, however, a person has a reputation of relaxing and

not taking his job seriously, then that person will not be lent money when he needs it to

expand his business. The above examples depict the spirit of capitalism (the true

development of capitalistic thought among the masses). Luther emphasized that men

should work their hardest at their particular calling. It became obvious that hard work

Therefore, workers began to figure out all of the possible ways by which they

could increase their earnings.k Luther’s thoughts on work resulted in the development of a

capitalistic mentality among workers. One example of a man who is dedicated to serve

God through fulfilling his calling is a man of this era who (being elderly) was asked to

retire. he had made a sizeable sum of money in his lifetime and his friends wondered when

he would give the chance to younger workers to accumulate their fortunes. The elderly

man rejected this suggestion because he wished to earn money as long as he could. this

man felt that he could serve God as long as he continued answering his calling. If he

retired, he would no longer be fulfilling that calling, thus, he decided not to retire. In some

people the following of their calling preceded all other pursuits in life. The goal of these

people was to earn as much money as possible and often this meant that they would not

take time out to enjoy life (for to do so would mean to divert from one’s calling). To

followers of Luther, the earning of money was an end in itself, through earning money one

could find happiness by pleasing God (through following the calling). Luther has caused

man to be dominated by the making of money. through following the calling the ultimate

purpose of our lives is to work hard and earn money. This principle, while difficult for

people not influenced by capitalism to understand, is easy for capitalists to comprehend.

The earning of money as long as it is done legally is the result and the expression

of virtue and proficiency in a calling; and this virtue and proficiency are goals of Luther’s

ethic. Although today this idea is not that important to us (one’s duty in a calling) it is the

Luther’s Impact on the Social Classes Late in March of 1526, several years before

the Hanseatic cities of Lubeck and Luneberg became Protestant, the burgomaster and

council of the former sent the burgomaster and council of the latter a copy of a letter from

a Lubeck merchant in London, calling attention to the danger that faced persons who

brought Lutheran books to the Steelyard. The letter from London points to the

seriousness of the situation by stating that “a certain knight, Thomas More,” had arrested

eight persons in the Steelyard for having Lutheran books in their possession. This and

many other similar instances illustrate the fact that merchants played an important part in

spreading the ideas of Luther to European commercial centers. Accordingly, one of the

most fruitful areas of study with respect to the rapid spread of Luther’s ideas is the interest

of the merchants and other urban classes in Germany, especially in the free imperial cities.

Although scholars have analyzed various aspects of city life at the close of the Middle

Ages in great detail, they have done relatively little by way of explaining why

representatives of the different urban classes (especially the middle classes) embraced

Luther’s ideas from its very beginnings. Because there were a lot of differences among the

German cities with respect to their political, constitutional, religious, social and cultural

developments, historians have found it advisable to begin a study of the reception of

Luther’s ideas by the various urban classes by examining the free imperial cities which had

More than fifty (of 85) cities recognized the Reformation in the sixteenth century

and more than half of these accepted and retained Protestantism. To arrive at an

understanding of why the dissatisfied social groups of the cities so readily accepted the

Reformation, one must evaluate their positive heritage. This consisted of three important

elements: first, the medieval ideals, attitudes and experiences of the free members of urban

communes who had worked out a method of government among themselves and with

their feudal lords; second, the practical, late-medieval mysticism with its emphasis on inner

spirituality and ethics; third, humanism, which many educated townsmen embraced as a

culture reflecting their urban interests and giving them a social status they had lacked

during the height of feudal chivalry.

The society of the medieval German city was not divided into classes in the

modern sense of the term. Luther and his contemporaries spoke of the various urban

groups as “estates,” each having its special interests and duties but all contributing to the

general welfare of the community. To speak of a capitalist class or of a proletariate, for

example, would lead to a complete misunderstanding of social conditions in late-medieval

The citizens of the earliest communes were free persons who had banded together

to seek independence from their feudal lords, often bishops. To retain their independence,

the citizens and the city councils of many communes instituted the annual oath which

persisted into the sixteenth century. Furthermore, citizenship was obtained by swearing an

oath to maintain the general welfare. Although it is impossible to connect the Reformation

world of thought with any particular social class, as many historians point out, there is an

indirect connection with bourgeois growth in the cities, and it will prove helpful to the

readers of this paper to examine the interests of the various groups within the cities.

In the typical imperial city, leadership soon fell into the hands of the patricians,

usually wealthy landowners or merchants who devoted their time and talents, with little or

no remuneration, to the welfare of their fellow citizens. it was natural that those who

carried the chief burdens of government should constitute smaller councils within the

larger ones and then perpetuate themselves and their families in office and social status.

That the movement from ordinary citizenship to the patrician class was relatively easy,

however, can be seen by the situation in Nuremberg, where in 1511 only 57 honorable

families had been represented among the hundred and eighty listed in 1390. In Augsburg,

some of the new patricians came from the artisan class, including the Fuggers and

Hochstetters. After 1500, however when the medieval cities started to decline, the status

of the patricians became much less flexible.

BIBLIOGRAPHYAtkinson, James. Martin Luther and the Protestant Reformation.

(Baltimore, MD: Penguin Books, 1968).Richard L. DeMolen. The Meaning of the

Reformation. (Boston: Houghton Mifflin Co., 1974).Arthur Dickens, Martin Luther and

the Reformation. (London: Oxford University Press, 1967).Richard Marius, Luther. (New

York: Erdicott Press, 1973).Olin, John C. Luther, Erasmus and the Reformation. (New

York: Fordham University Press, 1969).Parsons, Talcott. The Theory of Social and

Economic Organization. (New York: Oxford University Press, 1947).Thompson, Craig.

Christian Humanism and the Reformation. (New York: Macmillan and Co., 1965).Weber,

Max. The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism. (New York: Charles Scribner and

Cite this Martin Luther King Jr

Martin Luther King Jr. (2018, Sep 29). Retrieved from https://graduateway.com/martin-luther-king-jr-2-essay/

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