One of the greatest gifts of the Protestant Reformation was the recovery of the idea of vocation. Most people in Martin Luther’s day believed that the peasants were engaged in lowly work, the knights in higher, and the priests and rulers in the highest of all. Luther taught that all of us have been given callings, and that we should not despise any of them. In fact, often the lowlier the calling, the greater the opportunity to imitate Christ. The first are last, the last are first.
Teaching was not considered a noble task, and those who invested their lives in the next generation were not honored but disregarded. This negative attitude appears to have been particularly strong among those of the knightly class. Here is what Luther had to say:
Workers with brawn are prone to despise workers with brain, such as city secretaries and schoolteachers. The soldier boasts that it is hard work to ride in armor and endure heat, frost, dust, and thirst. But I’d like to see a horseman who could sit the whole day and look into a book. It is no great trick to hang two legs over a horse. They say writing is just pushing a feather, but I notice that they hang swords on their hips and feathers in high honor on their hats. Writing occupies not just the fist or the foot while the rest of the body can be singing or jesting, but the whole man. As for school-teaching, it is so strenuous that no one ought to be bound to it for more than ten years.