A Little More on Vocation`
God’s people please God even in the least and most trifling matters. For God will be working all things through you; God will milk the cow through you and perform the most servile duties through you, and all the greatest and least duties alike will be pleasing to God.
~From Luther’s Commentary on Genesis, LW 6:10.
Of all that Luther wrote and taught, there are two elements of his theology that I think are most important. The first is that we are justified – that is, considered by God to be righteous and holy and worthy and all the rest – by grace though faith, which means that God justifies us not because of what we have done but completely and simply because God loves us as demonstrated most clearly in the life, death, and resurrection of Christ. This message of absolute and unconditional acceptance is so incredibly important and is – or at least should be – the heart of our preaching and teaching.
The second critical element, which I touched on last week and will again in the weeks to come, is Luther’s sense of vocation – that we are called to serve God by serving our neighbor in whatever situation or station we find ourselves. This, in a sense, is the flip-side of justification, as we are freed by justification to serve our neighbor. That is, God doesn’t need our good works, but our neighbor does, and since God has taken care of the trifling matter of our ultimate destiny (!), we should have a little more time on our hands to take care of those around us.
Which is why Luther believes that any work done in good faith and for the sake of the neighbor is valuable and God-pleasing. That doesn’t mean it’s always interesting, or esteemed by the culture, or lucrative, but it is pleasing to God and valuable and has a measure of dignity to it that we may otherwise miss because, indeed, it is through our efforts – our labor, our time, our expertise – that God cares for the world and people God love so much. “God’s work, our hands” is one of the mottos of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in American, the church in which I serve, and I think that phrase captures pretty nicely God’s intentions to use all we have and are to care for those around us and hallow the work we do.
All of this is to say why I think vocation, along with justification, is not only one of the two most important parts of Luther’s theological legacy, but also part of the message we should be – or, better, are free to be – sharing with the world!