As mentioned previously here, Luther possessed a revolutionary understanding of individual vocation that ran counter to the medieval understanding of his day. For his contemporaries, some callings, jobs, positions, etc. were inherently more holy and/or pleasing to God than others. A priest, for example, was held in higher esteem in the Christian community because of his overt service to God, while a housemaid would have been looked down upon as a merely common.
Though separated by several centuries, this same sentiment is alive and well in some circles of Christianity today, including some parts of Evangelicalism. How often do we speak of those who have ‘surrendered to vocational ministry’ as though they are somehow living lives that are more pleasing to God than, say, a single mother working two jobs to make ends meet and care for her children? Why is it there such great pressure in some circles to steer young people towards missionary work, full-time church work, or other ministry-related vocations? Is this phenomenon truly the result of a clear need within the church, or is there some part of us that still thinks like our medieval predecessors? Luther will have none of this thinking! He writes:
Everyone has a calling in life. Believers serve God when they whole-heartedly take care of their responsibilities. An official who governs well serves God. A mother who cares for her children, a father who goes to work, and a student who studies diligently are all servants of God.
Many overlook this God-pleasing lifestyle because they consider simple, day-to-day work insignificant. They look instead for other work that seems more difficult and end up becoming disobedient to God…God requires that believers work hard at their callings without worrying about what anyone else is doing. Yet few people do this…
Few people are content with their callings. However, there is no other way to serve God except simply living by faith, sticking to your calling, and maintaining a clear conscience.
(from Faith Alone: A Daily Devotional / LW 3:128)
Are you a mega-church pastor, small-church parson, unappreciated youth minister, or some other church worker? Great–be faithful to God in all that you do and walk closely with Christ Jesus in humble belief.
Are you an engineer, factory worker, retail sales associate, or fast food server? Wonderful–be faithful to God in all that you do and walk closely with Christ Jesus in humble belief.
Are you ‘just’ a father, mother, or single-person seeking to honor and glorify God in your daily walk? Thanks be to God–be faithful to God in all that you do and walk closely with Christ Jesus in humble belief.
See the similarities? I hope so.
Lord God, You have called Your servants to ventures of which we cannot see the ending, by paths as yet untrodden, through perils unknown. Give us faith to go out with good courage, not knowing where we go but only that Your hand is leading us and Your love supporting us; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.