“God rejoices in his works”

NOT ONLY has God appointed such great wealth for schools and scholars, but it is honorable and divine wealth, earned in a divine and honorable estate by many glorious, good, and useful works which please God and are a service to him. 

The avaricious [greedy] man, on the contrary, earns his wealth with spite (even though his works are not godless and sinful) and with hateful works, about which he cannot have a glad conscience or say that they are a service of God. For my part, I would rather earn ten gulden [gold pennies] by a work that is a service of God, than a thousand gulden by a work that is not a service of God but serves only self and Mammon. . . . 

Chancellors, city clerks, jurists [judges], and the people who hold such offices also sit in high places and help to counsel and rule, as has been said. They are in actual fact lords upon earth, even though they are not that by virtue of their own person, birth, or estate. For Daniel says that he had to do the king’s work [Dan. 8:27]. 

And that is true: a chancellor must go about the work or business of the emperor, king, or prince; a city clerk must do the work of the council or the town. And they do this with God and with honor, to which God adds blessing, good fortune, and success. . . . 

Many servants, one lord

By this I do not mean to say that we should despise, reject, or do away with soldiers, fighting men, and those whose business is war. They too, when they are obedient, help with their fist to maintain peace and protect things. Every occupation has its own honor before God, as well as its own requirements and duties. . . . 

All the estates and works of God are to be praised as highly as they can be, and none despised in favor of another. For it is written…”What God does is fine and beautiful”; and again in Psalm 104[:31], “God rejoices in his works.” These ideas ought to be impressed particularly by the preachers on the people from their youth up, by schoolmasters on their boys, and by parents on their children, so that they may learn well what estates and offices are God’s, ordained by God, so that once they know this they will not despise or ridicule or speak evil of any one of them but hold them all in high regard and honor. That will both please God and serve the cause of peace and unity, for God is a great lord and has many kinds of servants. 

“A Sermon on Keeping Children in School” (1530). From Luther’s Works, vol. 46 (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1967.)

By Martin Luther

[Christian History originally published this article in Christian History Issue #110 in 2014]

Martin Luther was the most famous of the 16th-century religious reformers
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