What is Christian Vocation?

When my son was about 3 years old, he had a game he liked to play, one he called “worker.” Without warning, he would switch into an imaginary mode and start addressing me as “worker,” cheerfully asking questions like, “Hello worker! What are you working on today?” There was usually some kind of costume involved (always with a hat, of course.)

The Christian Worker

When he first started playing this game, I hesitated for a moment, wondering if his dad and I were warping his impressionable ideas about work-life balance by (seemingly) working all the time. I worried that our work-from-home lifestyle (even before quarantine requirements kicked in) influenced him to think about mom and dad as one-dimensional “workers”…as people who only work.

But as we played the game off and on over a few weeks it became a fun little challenge for me to frame my role as “worker” in different lights for him to ponder. Some days I was the grocery-shopping and menu-planning “worker,” while other days I was the kind of “worker” who wrote words on a screen and held virtual meetings. In the simplicity of the game, it got me thinking about vocation and our call as Christian “workers.”

What is the Doctrine of Vocation?

One thing the Reformers got really right was their doctrine on vocation, based on Paul’s affirmation in 1 Cor. 7:17. But the idea is broader than just what we do for “work” (our careers or job); to pursue faithfulness in our vocations as believers means that, above all else, we trust the providence of God in our lives. In an essay on why and how the Reformers developed these revolutionary ideas, Dr. Veith explains the three main pillars of vocation–the household, the church, and the state.

He says,

“Vocation has to do with God’s providence, how He governs and cares for His creation by working through human beings. Vocation shows Christians how to live out their faith, not just in the workplace but in their families, churches, and cultures. Vocation is where faith bears fruit in acts of love, and so it grows out of the Gospel. And vocation is where Christians struggle with trials and temptations, becoming a means of sanctification.”

Heeding Paul’s guidance, when we are considering our vocation, we must begin in the home. The home, or “household,” is the place of our most intimate relationships as husbands, wives, mothers, fathers, children, roommates/close friends, and (sometimes) extended family, like grandparents. The home, therefore, holds the relationships in our lives with the most responsibility, but also the most potential for growth and good fruit. Similarly, we each have roles within the church, and, to a lesser degree, in the state (through our private employment or daily work, or in the service of the military or government).

Vocation as Everyday Worship

It is here, in the grit of our everyday life, where we can faithfully live out our vocation to trust God’s providence as it is made known through the people, locations, and activities that He allows. In other words, our jobs/roles might change according to all manner of circumstances, but we are always called to trust the Lord with our whole selves–body, mind, and soul (via our time, resources, influence…you get the idea). We surrender our work life in the same way that we surrender our marriages and child-rearing and dreams/ambitions; in gratitude, we give all back to Him, our Heavenly Father who gives good gifts to His children. This is our “spiritual act of worship,” and the way we live out our vocation as saints.

Just this morning, as I was reading my son a kitschy little book called “Daddies” about the different jobs that fathers do (you know, This Daddy is a baker! This Daddy is a policeman! etc.), he stopped the story and commented, “And mommies do work, too!”  I smiled and agreed. Yes, we are all called to work for the glory of God, whatever that may look like. We all have the opportunity to fulfill our vocations with hearts that trust the providence of God and are forever saying to Him, “Thank you.” To be a Christian “worker” is simply to trust the Lord and look to Him for guidance in every moment of our busy day. In all things, to Him be the glory.

Published by Sara Beth Longenecker

Sara Beth Longenecker is a writer and blogger based in Nashville, TN. She helps women sort through the noise of our culture by bringing them truth, beauty, and everyday theology.

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