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Labour and Profession

In the Middle Ages, labour belonged especially to the third estate. Physical labour was abhorred. In the Middle Ages, they divided estates into clergymen, nobles and serfs. The clergymen scorned the serfs, who did not live a spiritual life as they did. Friars appreciated the contemplative life more than the practical life.

Due to the doctrine of justification of Luther there came about a new understanding of the relationship between people between one another. For Luther, vocation (vocatio) does not just apply to the clergy, but to all earthly pursuits. The Lutherans criticized the monastic life and virtue ethics. For the Lutheran, conceptions of labour mean that everyone is equal, a kind of ‘brotherhood ethics’. The heart of the Lutheran conception of profession is that the personal self is the place of liberation and a new order. As a result of the Peasant’s War (1524-1526) and other factors, Luther added to his discussions of ‘vocation’ that obedience is important in the professional life. To this also belongs the fact that people need to stay at the place where they are placed in life. Labour becomes ‘service’: serve God and other persons.