A Twisted Crown of Thorns ®

Reformed. Christianity. Evangelism. Modern Culture.

The doctrine of Vocation

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Is going to work a burden and at times an endless chore? Do you feel that you are only “serving God” when you join the church choir or become a minister in church? It’s high time you thought again about what God has given you and where he has placed you. Quoting Gene Edward Veith:

The word “calling,” or in its Latinate form “vocation,” had long been used in reference to the sacred ministry and the religious orders. Martin Luther was the first to use “vocation” to refer also to secular offices and occupations. Today, the term has become common-place, another synonym for a profession or job, as in “vocational training.” But behind the term is the notion that every legitimate kind of work or social function is a distinct “calling” from God, requiring unique God-given gifts, skills, and talents. Moreover, the Reformation doctrine of vocation teaches that God himself is active in everyday human labor, family responsibil-ities, and social interactions.

For instance, to take one of Luther’s examples, we pray in the Lord’s Prayer that God give us our daily bread, which he does. He does so, not directly as when he gave manna to the Israelites, but through the work of farmers and bakers-and we might add truck drivers and retailers. In effect, the whole economic system is the means by which God gives us our daily bread. Each part of the economic food chain is a vocation, through which God works to distribute his gifts. Similarly, God heals the sick. While he can and sometimes does do so directly, in the normal course of things he works through doctors, nurses, and other medical experts. God protects us from evil, with the vocation of the police officer. God teaches through teachers, orders society through governments, proclaims the Gospel through pastors.

Luther pointed out that God could populate the earth by creating each new generation of babies from the dust. Instead, He ordained that human beings should come together to bring up children in families. The offices of husband, wife, and parent are vocations through which God works to rear and care for children.

In other words, in his earthly kingdom, just as in his spiritual kingdom, God bestows his gifts through means. God ordained that human beings be bound together in love, in relationships and communities existing in a state of interdependence. In this context, God is providentially at work caring for his people, each of whom contributes according to his or her God-given talents, gifts, opportunities, and stations. Each thereby becomes what Luther terms a “mask of God”:

All our work in the field, in the garden, in the city, in the home, in struggle, in government-to what does it all amount before God except child’s play, by means of which God is pleased to give his gifts in the field, at home, and everywhere? These are the masks of our Lord God, behind which he wants to be hidden and to do all things.

HT How God Hides Himself in Human Work.

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