Why 500 Years Matters
On October 31, 1517 Martin Luther mustered an incalculable amount of courage as he nailed a copy of his 95 Theses to the door of the Wittenberg Castle Church. As difficult as it is to imagine the amount of spiritual fortitude needed to take this kind of action, so too is it hard to measure the impact that the Reformation has had on all of Christendom since.
There is not enough white space here to give worthy attention to all the things we could cite. The hallmarks of the Reformation are often codified in the “solas”: Sola Scriptura (“Scripture alone”); Sola Fide (“faith alone”); Sola Gratia (“grace alone”); Sola Christus (“Christ alone”); and Soli Deo Gloria (“to the glory of God alone”).
From these Luther developed further his understanding of Scripture and an accompanying theology. This insight had a significant impact on everything Luther believed including his view of work. By personalizing faith, Luther transferred the rights and privileges that had been previously reserved for only the monks and priests to all, to the hoi polio. Luther wrote in The Babylonian Captivity of the Church that,
…the works of monks and priests, however holy and arduous they may be, do not differ on whit in the sight of God from the works of the rustic laborer in the field or the woman going about her household tasks…all works are measured before God by faith alone.
This means that all work matters—your work matters. Kevin Clark, who was featured in one of The Collaborative’s videos, recently stated that we need to remember that the washer woman and Beethoven will both be equally welcomed into the Kingdom and hear ‘well done…’ All work has value, not just those vocations related to the church.
What an encouragement this should be. This is particularly uplifting when applied to those parts of our jobs that often feel more like drudgery than something of God. At the same time, there is an inherent challenge here, to pour ourselves into those aspects of work that on the surface drive us crazy or rob us of joy. Don’t you know what I mean? For me it is all the administrative issues of owning my small business and the management of life. Things like tracking mileage, prepping invoices, preparing taxes, scheduling home repairs, etc. Oh, my goodness the list could go on and on and even worse is that often these tasks suck every ounce of enthusiasm out of me. However, we all have different skill sets and gifts and so what is a struggle for me is exciting to others, just as those things about my work that I love provoke dread for another. The challenge to do those things we dread as unto the glory of God is not insignificant but nor is it insurmountable. Remembering that the Creator of Heaven and Earth said that work is good and has called people to vocations can help both the heart and mind engage in all that is required of us.
It was Luther’s biblical doctrine of work that first introduced the value of all work to the masses. Whether or not you count yourself among the Reformed today, we all have much to celebrate and be grateful for on this the 500th anniversary of Martin Luther’s 95 theses being nailed to church’s door.