Martin Luther King Jr








9
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 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