Luther: “When A Father Changes Diapers…”

I’ve always appreciated Martin Luther’s excellent biblical emphasis on vocation/calling and what it means for Christian parents.  (For one example, see this post about a mother pleasing God by changing diapers.)  I like how Luther is balanced; he’s not hyper-patriarchal nor is he a liberal on these areas of calling and family.  Here’s a nice summary by Kolb and Arand.

“In his preface to Ecclesiastes, Luther points out that faith enables the Christian to see that ‘all God’s creatures are good (Gen. 1:31 and 1 Tim. 4:4), and that a person should be pleased with his spouse and enjoy life with her.’  Faith opens the Christian’s eyes ‘to look upon all these insignificant, distasteful, and despised duties in the Spirit, and [to be] aware that they are all adorned with divine approval as with the costliest gold and jewels.’  Thus, faith embraces the most menial activities, for God’s Word has given them his stamp of approval.  These are the very things he wants us to do.”

“For this reason Luther constantly chose ordinary activities from daily life as examples of a Christian’s return to creation and embrace of vocation.  These included such activities as the father washing smelly diapers, the maid sweeping the floor, the mother cooking supper, and the baker making good bread.  Of all the activities found in daily life, none was extolled more than marriage and family.  In contrast to medieval assumptions that ‘maligned marriage and parenthood, Luther exalted the family in all its dimensions and utterly without qualification.’”

While still unmarried, Luther wrote, ‘When a father goes ahead and washes diapers or performs some other menial task for his child, and someone ridicules him as an effeminate fool…God with all his angels and creatures is smiling.’  As Steven Ozment put it, ‘Never has the art of parenting been more highly praised and parental authority more wholeheartedly supported than in Reformation Europe.’”

Robert Kolb and Charles Arand, The Genius of Luther’s Theology (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2008), 112.

rev shane lems

1 thought on “Luther: “When A Father Changes Diapers…””

  1. This stuff is pure gold. It’s time we discovered the Reformed and Lutheran concept of vocation, and how God works out our sanctification through our faithfulness at our vocations. Praise God for Luther–and recent writers such as Gene Veith, for bringing this back to the church’s focus. Veith’s “God at Work” should be required reading for everyone.


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