The Doctrine of Vocation

On Sunday during the sermon, I briefly commented that a solid grasp on the Doctrine of Vocation would serve every Christian well as they seek to live faithfully in society while honoring God in the process. Well, if that is the case and I am going to fulfill my vocation as a pastor, the responsibility falls on me to explain. Gene Veith wrote: “The term vocation comes from the Latin word for ‘calling’”. Vocation includes that which you do as an occupation and for which you receive compensation. In that case an employer has called you to fulfill certain responsibilities and they have committed to pay you in return. However, the idea of vocation is far broader than the sole concept of employment…especially for Christians. God’s Word reveals that we are called to live all of life to the Glory of God (1 Cor. 10:31). Thus, everything you do is a calling: marriage, parenting, citizenship, employment, employer…all endeavors.

Since this is the case what should guide us in our callings is the summary of the Law that Jesus gave; love God and your neighbor as yourself (Matt. 22:37-39). Believers are no longer condemned by the Law (Rom. 8:1), but we are now guided by the Law. Therefore, in everything we do we should seek to honor the Lord and to love our neighbor. Let me now narrowly focus on our employment. This should change the way you view your work…it is not merely about acquiring a paycheck. There is nothing wrong with a paycheck. With it you are able to provide food and shelter for yourself and loved ones (a good thing, 1 Tim. 5:8; 2 Thess. 3:10). However, your view of employment must be far broader than your paycheck. In your work you are to honor the Lord by doing the best possible quality of work you can and love your neighbor by providing a careful service. God is honored when you seek to contribute to and cultivate a healthy (orderly) society in your work and when you love your neighbor by giving them the best. Tim Keller explained:

Christians should be aware of this revolutionary understanding of the purpose of their work in the world. We are not to choose jobs and conduct our work to fulfill ourselves and accrue power, for being called by God to do something is empowering enough. We are to see work as a way of service to God and our neighbor, and so we should both choose and conduct our work in accordance with that purpose. The question regarding our choice of work is no longer “What will make me the most money and give me the most status?” The question must now be “How, with my existing abilities and opportunities, can I be of greatest service to other people, knowing what I do of God’s will and of human need?”

This means that the food service provider seeks to serve sanitary, healthy and delicious food. Why? They love their neighbor and don’t want them to get sick. They want their food to promote good health and want others to enjoy the food. The carpenter seeks to build a quality table that is pleasing to the eye. Why? He wants the table to last many years and not collapse and injure someone. He not only wants it to be stable, but also a beautiful piece of craftsmanship. He has also served his neighbor by providing a family with a table to gather around (for meals and game nights) for many years to come. Let me also say that you don’t have to get paid to serve others. Homemakers serve their families tirelessly day in and day out and must be guided by the same truths. Also, those who are retired and disabled may still seek to serve others in some capacity, and should if they are able.

All of life is worship and everything we do should be done, unto the Lord. When we understand this, it transforms how we view the “daily grind”. Stephen Nichols illustrates this well speaking of medieval architecture:

Way up in the high reaches of the cathedral, just as much attention is paid as in the sculptures down below at eye level. Now, no one could ever possibly see the fine details of the sculpture way up there. Cutting back on these details wouldn’t have negatively impacted the soundness of the structure in any way, and you couldn’t make an argument that it would have impeded the worship of those on the floor below. So why did the architects do it? Because they knew it was work in the service of God.

In the final weeks of my Grandfather’s life as his health deteriorated he was placed in an assisted living facility. Someone from our family was with him at his bedside almost 24/7. Depending on what nurses were on a particular shift the family member would either simply get to enjoy time with him or spend their time advocating for him and his care. Why? Well, as our family came to describe it, some nurses viewed their job as a calling and some as simply a paycheck. The difference is immeasurable!

About Pastor Matt

Matt Baker is the Pastor of Redeemer Fellowship Church.
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