Christian Living

The Early Years of Martin Luther

Luther Studied to Become a Lawyer to Please His Father

Hans Luther, a German peasant, and his bride, Margaret, who came from the middle class, committed their lives to each other. Though having different social backgrounds, Hans pledged to work his way up in life. He promised to provide for Margaret and their future family in the way she grew up.

Devout Catholics, Hans and Margaret welcomed their firstborn into the world on November 10, 1483. The couple baptized their baby the next day on St. Martin’s Day. It seemed fitting to give their son the name Martin.

As Hans worked in the mines, Margaret, a stern disciplinarian, taught little Martin the Lord’s Prayer, the Ten Commandments, and the Apostles’ Creed. The Luthers celebrated Mass each week. They instilled in Martin a love for singing, both in the church choir and at home with family.

Consistent with the Church’s teaching of the day, young Martin learned of a Jesus who not only came to save but who also judged, demanding holy living and exacting a dreadful wrath over those who fell short. This tough teaching gripped Martin and caused him great agony for the first part of his life.

At eight years old, Martin started school. He learned Latin from strict teachers who governed with harsh discipline. Despite the school’s rigid setting, he performed well.

At age thirteen and showing promise, Martin continued his education. He progressed through a series of schools, as was the practice of the day for students with potential.

Luther’s Career Dilemma

This prepared him for a professional job, possibly in law, which his father desired for his son. For the most part, Martin accepted his dad’s career preference. A highly respected occupation, a career in law would provide Martin with a good income.

But Hans could afford to pay for only part of Martin’s schooling. As the accepted practice of the day, the lad would try to make up the difference through begging and street singing.

Despite this, Martin relished learning. He desired to honor his dad by becoming a lawyer, even though young Martin felt occasional pulls to serve God and the Church, a profession that lacked both the pay and the prestige of law.

At eighteen, Martin began the final phase of his education, which his dad could now fully cover. An excellent student, Martin soon earned his bachelor’s degree and then his masters two years later.

Yet he continued to struggle to balance his personal worries about spiritual issues of sin and punishment, as taught by the church, with his father’s push for him to pursue law.

Martin vacillated between honoring the wishes of his dad—a man he both loved and feared—and responding to God’s call. Despite not liking the legal profession, Martin chose to follow the wishes of his father.

Read more about Martin Luther and the Protestant Reformation in Peter DeHaan’s book Martin Luther’s 95 Theses: Celebrating the Protestant Reformation in the 21st Century. Buy it today to discover more about Martin Luther and his history-changing 95 theses.

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices.

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