The Protestant Reformation brought about a far-reaching affirmation of the dignity of all sincere occupations—including manual labor—as vocations that signify a calling to the worship of God. Contrary to the emphasis placed in the Catholic tradition on the sacrifice of the mass, the holy sacrament, the confession, and other rituals, the convictions of work as worship, predestination, and salvation of vocational success were a dominant outcome of the Protestant Reformation.
Nearly 500 years ago, Martin Luther (1483-1546) asserted that the term ‘vocation’ should be applied not only to those ‘called’ into the priesthood or a holy order. Instead, Luther preached that all Christians have a vocation: wherever God has placed one—from garbage collection to sporting star—was one’s vocation. Therefore, one should do pursue that vocation to the “Glory of God” with as much energy and commitment as one could gather.
Later on, John Calvin (1509-1564) explained that the only way to ensure that one is part of the “chosen” is to ensure that one reflects in one’s life the fruits of one’s spirit (patience, perseverance, hard work, stewardship, etc.).
Martin Luther’s and John Calvin’s theological concepts and the emphasis on conscientiousness, hard work, and thrift as signs of a person’s salvation in the Christian faith became core to the Protestant Work Ethic or the Puritan Work Ethic. These renovations to the practice of faith gave birth to an industry and focus that the world had never before seen.
The Protestant Work Ethic (regard your labor as your gift to God and, in so doing, provide the evidence that you are chosen for redemption) became a defining quality of the western world.