“The Christian shoemaker does his Christian duty not by putting little crosses on the shoes, but by making good shoes.”

This pithy quote is usually attributed to Martin Luther, but in fact, scholars say he never said it.

First, no Christian of Luther’s time would have thought to display his faith by “branding” his shoes. Second, Luther’s writings emphasized work done in service of others, not as an end unto itself. Still, as the first theologian to describe non-priestly work as a vocation, Luther directly affirmed the honorable calling of the scribe, the brewer, the tailor, and, yes, the shoemaker.

Centuries later, Western Christians continue to serve their neighbors by making shoes. Most famously, TOMS popularized the one-for-one business model by giving away a pair of shoes to a child in need for each pair purchased. In the past decade, TOMS has distributed more than 60 million pairs of shoes in 70 countries, with founder Blake Mycoskie and his company ranking on lists of top innovators and effective social enterprises. Other “social good” companies such as Uganda-based sandal manufacturer Sseko Designs ensure fair wages for employees and ethical sourcing. Whatever the task or product, when Christians view their work as service to others, they tend to find themselves more aware of problems big and small—and to think creatively to solve them.

“When you take concern for helping others and add that to intrinsic motivation, people actually become more creative,” said organizational psychologist Adam Grant, author of the best-selling Originals: How Non-Conformists Move the World, in an interview with Christianity Today. “If people are curious in the work, they ...

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