|Grandson Aiden hard at work with his Daddy Aaron|
For the medieval church, the term vocation meant belonging to a religious order. Only those in full-time ministry were considered to be on the inside track to heaven. Their work was looked upon as being sacred and fulfilling. All other work was mundane and unimportant. However, Martin Luther broke through that understanding of vocation as well as interpretation of Scripture when he nailed his ninety-five theses on the cathedral door. He believed that vocation included the office of husband and wife through whom God works to bring up children. In fact, according to Gene Edward Veith, Luther believed that God gave gifts through His means thereby being able to meet the needs of His people in community. We have daily bread because there are bakers, retailers and truck drivers who bring the baked goods to the store. It is through our economic system that God provides for our daily bread. Likewise, while a person can receive a miraculous healing, God has ordained the vocation of doctor, nurses and other health care providers who can bring about His healing work. All of this is God's providential working to provide for our needs. He is behind it all....soli deo gloria!
God is graciously at work behind the scenes, as it were, to benefit both believers and unbelievers in this world. His care for us extends through the work of other human beings to His great glory. Behind the work of our parents who raised us, our teachers who have educated us, our spouses who provide care for us, our employers, and yes, even our government stands the Lord Himself who bestows His many blessings. When we look at things this way, no job or vocation seems unimportant does it?
Our purpose behind our vocation is in serving others and this is especially true for Christians. Jesus told us in Matthew 20:26-28: "It shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be your slave, even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many." He spoke these words to his disciples who were arguing about who would get the place of prominence next to Jesus when He came into His kingdom. They had their thinking out of line with God's purposes. For His disciples as well as for us today, we are meant to serve one another and not to be served. Believers in Jesus Christ are not a part of our entitlement society. We are born again to be servants of the most High God for the benefit of our fellow man whether they are part of the covenant community or not. This is how we will attract and win people to the Lord...by our love for one another and for those outside the household of faith.
Furthermore, while we may think that we choose our own vocation, in reality, it is God who calls us to a certain work and equips us with the talents, skills and inclination to accomplish the work. Again, God is behind the scenes working to direct us through others to the vocation for which He has made us. The job interview, college scholarship, internship or job offer are all clues to the direction the Lord wants us to take in our lives. Let me also state emphatically that we are called to multiple vocations in our lives....not just one. Perhaps the most important calling we have is to our home and family. Being a homemaker, parent and spouse are all offices that are sacred in the eyes of God. Working outside the home is merely one avenue of fulfilling God's call on our life. However, it is not the only one.
Perhaps the most poignant comment that Mr. Veith makes in his article comes in his discussion of those menial jobs that people tend to think God could never call us to. He writes: "Essentially, one's vocation is to be found in the place one occupies in the present. A person stuck in a dead-end job may have higher ambitions, but for the moment that job, however humble, is one's vocation. Flipping hamburgers, cleaning hotel rooms, emptying bedpans all have dignity as vocations, spheres of expressing love of neighbor through selfless service in which God is masked. Perhaps later, another vocation will present itself. Vocation is to be found not simply in future career decisions, but in the here and now." If only we could grasp how important this point is for us! What a difference it would make in how we do our daily tasks! No job is too small especially if we see it as an opportunity to serve others and share the good news of the Gospel.
Our faulty thinking has often been the culprit in our poor attitude about our calling in this life. We tend to think that unless we are preaching the Bible, writing a book or doing some other GREAT work of ministry we are "less than" when it comes to serving the Lord. Yet, we forget that in our current vocation, whatever that may be, we are reaching people that our pastor cannot reach. God's plans and way of thinking are far removed from ours. His design for us is to bring us to maturity and conformity to Christ. He will do all that He has said He will do and the good work which He has begun in us will be completed. Isn't that wonderful to know? Therefore, we do not need to stress about vocation. We only need to know that the work we do and the talent we share should be done for the Lord's glory. He is using us to serve others. As Jesus clearly taught, the greatest commandment is this: (Matthew 22:37-40) "And He said to him, 'You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.'"
This is our goal as a believer when it comes to serving God through vocation. May this inspire us to be all we can be on a daily basis and give us some new ways of looking at our vocation. Selah!
Modern Reformation, Vol. 21, No. 6, November-December 2012, pgs 30-33, Gene Edward Veith, "The Doctrine of Vocation How God Hides Himself in Human Work."