The paper argues that Luther’s critique of works-righteousness was equally an attack on the early profit economy. Both exemplified the drive to secure one’s own existence, and thereby expressed the counterfeit gospel that a person’s worth depends upon achievement rather than God’s free grace. In this perspective it is clear that Luther’s criticism of early capitalism is not limited to a few specific tracts such as “Trade and Usury” but permeates all his writings from the “95 Theses” to his late tract “Exhortation to the Clergy to Preach against Usury.” By “usury,” Luther meant the financial practices of the major banks of his day related to large scale national and international commerce. Luther was convinced that the profit economy of his day divorced money from use for human needs, necessitated an economy of acquisition, and with its high interest rates and monopolies fed the mortal sin of avarice and eroded the common good. Thus, he understood ideas of an impersonal market and autonomous laws of economics as idolatrous and socially destructive. He was convinced that taking excessive interest rates should be excoriated from the pulpit and regulated by the government.


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pp. 373-392
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