The word “vocation” comes from the Latin vocatio, which means “to call, summon.” We use the word “vocation” to state the truth that God has called us to serve Him in our various duties. All people have a calling from God, whether or not they recognize it.
When Lutherans use the word “calling,” they often refer to the divine call of men into the ministry of the Gospel or to “the Holy Spirit has called me by the Gospel.” What a blessing God has given us that He sent ministers to proclaim His Word so that the Holy Spirit creates faith in Jesus through His Word. And through Baptism, God washes away our sins and adopts us as His children. This adoption opens up a new life to us—a life of worship and service to God and to our neighbor. This life is called “sanctification” because the Holy Spirit moves us to live holy lives according to God’s will and leads us to glorify God as we help others.
The concept of vocation is important. First, it shows how Christians worship God in their various callings. Faith in Jesus and love for God move spouses to faithfully remain in their marriage vows, help husbands and wives to serve each other and their children in love, motivate workers to obey bosses and love the work they do, and grant strength to forgive the sins of others.
Second, vocation keeps us from the idea that we must follow some “plan” of God in order to have a good life and please Him. So many teachers of religion promote the idea that we must somehow find what God wills us to do and follow it, and only then will God bless our lives. Vocation teaches us that God will bless us in whatever He calls us to do—as parent, student, worker. Yes, some things people do are inherently sinful—abortionist, robber, swindler, drug dealer, oppressor—and God’s children are not to do them. Yet, as we serve others in our different vocations, God considers what we do out of love for Him as worship to Him.
Third, vocation teaches us how we can serve our neighbor. It has been said that God does not need our worship or service. He is pleased when we, out of love for Christ, do something as little as giving a glass of water to a child. The work of our vocations is what Jesus will point to as evidence of our faith in Him (see Matthew 25:31–40).
The Bible has many things to tell us about how we as God’s children are to carry out our vocations. Even though people may speak against us as Christians, our conduct is to be honorable and full of good works toward others (1 Peter 2:12). By doing good, we put to silence those who oppose God (1 Peter 2:15). We are not to return evil for evil, but blessing, “knowing that you were called to this, that you may inherit a blessing” (1 Peter 3:9). Paul instructs workers to serve “not with eyeservice, as menpleasers, but as bondservants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart” (Ephesians 6:6).
What a blessed work God has called us to do. For by being faithful in our vocations, we are serving people in the world, fulfilling God’s hidden work of providence, worshiping God and glorifying His name, and setting examples of honest labor to others. Through vocation, God gives us a purpose to living—serving Him and our neighbor. In our vocations, we can put to use the skills and abilities that God has given to us. On the last day, Jesus will say to all who believe in Him, “Well done, good and faithful servant; … Enter into the joy of your Lord” (Matthew 25:21).
Theodore G. Gullixson
Editor, The Lutheran Sentinel