The Doctrine of Vocation Pt. II

During the Reformation there was a resurgence of the Doctrine of Vocation. Martin Luther was one of the leading advocates of the doctrine. In Luther’s day the general consensus was that the only truly spiritual (and noble) work was religious work; becoming a Priest, Monk or Nun. As Luther began to rightly understand the Gospel his thinking in all areas of life began to be transformed. Gene Veith explains:

…as he (Luther) was recovering the gospel and the Word of God, (he) insisted that all of life in the world is a realm for Christian service and that our everyday activities in the workplace, the culture, the church, and especially the family are vocations from God.

As the previous post explained, vocation comes from the Latin word meaning calling. As Christians, all of life is a calling to live to the Glory of God (1 Cor. 10:31). One of the main areas Luther sought to revitalize the importance of vocation was in the family. Seeing how the only work that was seen as spiritual was religious work, and that all religious work included celibacy, the importance of family was severely marginalized. Luther—himself a former monk who married a former Nun—sought to show how fulfilling the calling of marriage, parenthood and childhood were spiritual services honoring God. This is where his famous statement on changing diapers comes from. Again, Veith shares:

Luther believed that changing a baby’s diaper is a holier work than that of all the monks in all the monasteries. A holy work! Why? Because the mother and father (yes, Luther specifically talked about fathers changing baby diapers) are loving and serving their child. In God’s eyes, this is holy. And so are the other works of the family life…

Luther was combating against the thought that only certain vocations were truly religious. He taught that all  vocations are religious because they render service to God and neighbor. We are still fighting the same battles today. Some think they can only serve God by going into ministry or missions. I am thankful many in our church may have a high-view of family and the calling God has on them as spouses, parents and children. However, I wonder if we don’t think wrongly about our jobs. As I said in part one, it is about more than acquiring a paycheck…it is about loving God and serving your neighbor. Luther also had a high-view of mundane work. He said, when a believer prays; “give us this day our daily bread”, God uses everyday ordinary farmers to supply it. Today we could say not only farmers, but also factory workers who package it, truck drivers who transport it, and store clerks who sell it. The mundane and ordinary are God’s primary means for providing and meeting our needs. The theological term for it is providence…that is, in His providence, God uses you to meet the needs of others. Live all of life—family, work, community involvement—to the glory of God and so fulfill your calling (vocation)!

Here are some previous posts on Family Vocation:
Marriage in the Mundane
Glorious Motherhood
Loving Your Neighbor (Family)

About Pastor Matt

Matt Baker is the Pastor of Redeemer Fellowship Church.
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