A primer: Your work matters to God…
Are ordinary believers “second-class citizens” in the Kingdom of God? Many of us feel that way today—many others have faced the same dilemma down through the centuries. It’s the pastors, campus ministers, and missionaries who are called into ministry. The rest of us just have jobs in the secular arena.
Here’s how the late pastor John Stott described this all-too-common problem of spiritual dualism.
We often give the impression that if a young Christian man is really keen for Christ he will undoubtedly become a foreign missionary, that if he is not quite as keens as that he will stay at home and become a pastor, that if he lacks the dedication to be a pastor, he will no doubt serve as a doctor or teacher, while those who end up in social work or the media or (worst of all) in politics are not far removed from serious backsliding.
Dr. David Naugle has written very helpful article, “Redeeming Vocation,” which offers a much needed corrective. He provides a very brief theology of calling, and he addresses the issue of multiple callings.
Then, Dr. Naugle looks back to the reformers Martin Luther and John Calvin for revolutionary insights that “are no less potent for a similar revolution in our own day.” Here is some of what Luther had to say about calling and vocation, along with Dr. Naugle’s summary of key points.
What you do in your house is worth as much as if you did it up in heaven for our Lord God. For what we do in our calling here on earth in accordance with His word and command He counts as if it were done in Heaven for Him. . . . Therefore we should accustom ourselves to think of our position and work as sacred and well-pleasing to God, not on account of the position and the work, but on account of the word and faith from which the obedience and the work flow. No Christian should despise his position and life if he is living in accordance with the word of God, but should say, “I believe in Jesus Christ, and do as the ten commandments teach, and pray that our dear Lord God may help me thus to do.” That is a right and holy life, and cannot be made holier even if one fast himself to death.
. . . It looks like a great thing when a monk renounces everything and goes into a cloister, carries on a life of asceticism, fasts, watches, prays, etc. . . . On the other hand, it looks like a small thing when a maid cooks and cleans and does other housework. But because God’s command is there, even such a small work must be praised as a service to God far surpassing the holiness and asceticism of all monks and nuns. For here there is no command of God. But there God’s command is fulfilled, that one should honour father and mother and help in the care of the home.
Four main principles are contained in Luther’s insights.
· First, work of any kind that is done in obedience to God and His Word is pleasing to Him.
· Second, what is most important is not the kind of work that is done per se, but rather the spiritual motivation behind it.
· Third, Christians should be happy and content in their stations and duties in life as long as they have faith and are doing God’s will from the heart.
· Fourth and finally, housework that is based on God’s Word is more pleasing to God than religious work that lacks such a foundation.
Two very important questions are addressed at the end Dr. Naugle’s article: Is my job my calling? How do I discover what my calling is? He then concludes with an often-repeated quote from Fredrick Buechner:
The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.
Dr. David Naugle is Distinguished University Professor and chair and professor of philosophy at Dallas Baptist University. He is the author of Worldview: The History of a Concept, Reordered Love, Reordered Lives: Learning the Deep Meaning of Happiness, and Philosophy: A Student’s Guide, a volume in the series Reclaiming the Christian Intellectual Tradition.
“Redeeming Vocation” was published on the website of the Chuck Colson Center for Christian Worldview.