Work and vocation
Work and vocation
Luther and Calvin’s equation of work and vocation is a concept of work as a divine vocation. By having these views, it helped them to cut through the two-tiered spirituality of the medieval world. Sending common laborers to different sections in the Kingdom of God from those that choose the monastic way of life would not happen. They believed that special dedication to God by a select group would not receive any special treatment in His Kingdom. Goodness of spirit is the essence of Christian piety. Moral conduct, or good work, is required of the Christian, but justification, or salvation, would come by faith alone.
Luther and Calvin believed that it is God's grace that saves us. The type of work we do does not. Everyone has their own station in life, and anyone can serve God by going through their daily tasks. Our vocation comes to us through our station in life. When we deliver our vocations, we serve our neighbors and those that serve others do God’s will. We are God’s representatives on this earth and by cultivating it with our talents, we benefit our neighbors.
Calvin also accepted the theological doctrine that salvation is by faith alone, and regarded contemplation as mere laziness. Punishment for sin is poverty. Evidence that one did not have God’s grace also manifests itself in poverty. Calvin believed that his way of life would lead to worldly prosperity. A sign from God is prosperity. Goodness came to be associated with wealth, and poverty with evil; not to succeed in one’s calling seemed to be clear indication that God did not approve. I believe this is extreme. There are times when people cannot help if they are out of work. Places of employment may close forcing us to abandon our work. Negative views like these can have detrimental effects on society if we regard them as the only truths.
As Christians, we see our motivation for everything we do as a response to a calling from God. Having happiness as our driving force is wrong, but we may find happiness through successful work. Believing that our primary job in life is to find personal satisfaction should not trap us to strive for personal wealth building. All honorable work, paid or unpaid, is part of our calling from God. Calvin believed that moving from one station in life because of ambition, avarice, or simple lack of discipline displays an act of insubordination.
Thanks to the reformers, calling is synonymous for occupation. It is a view that holds no matter how menial the task; a view that work serves the people, the community, and ultimately God. A person’s service functions for the common good and meets individual needs. Work is part of one’s self-perception or self-understanding. This view adds dignity to even ordinary work.
With the dramatic transformation in markets today, however, due to rapidly expanding market economy, accelerated urbanization, technological innovations, and political reorganization, workers sometimes can not help but move through social change. I do not believe, as Calvin would, that this is because of sin.
Through work, we fulfill our God-given decree to develop, shape, and care for the earth. Our work is not only an activity that responds to God’s original command, but work also expresses God’s image within us. God’s creativity is continuous through the work of our hands.
Work has a central role in understand life and our relationship with God. Through work, we are responding to God’s calling to continue his work of creation. We realize that we are images of God, and help shape and form the earth for the good of humanity and our neighbors.
I believe society today could benefit from some of these views. Man, in many cases has lost touch with what is truly important during our lives. People today concentrate too much on their material wealth and often lose site of God. We need to refresh our sprits with the true meaning of work and vocation. Humankind needs to think more about serving their neighbor through work and contributing to society overall. God will provide for us if we try to do his will and allow him to work through our hands.
Eliminating vocation, or the idea of vocation, is wrong. Re-energizing society in our dealings with God and work is what I believe we need. We could make a difference in the way humanity continues if we strive to maintain and adhere to the teachings of work as God’s will. Bettering ourselves intrinsically as we help provide for our neighbors through work should be our primary focus through life.
I believe we are seeing a change in society somewhat. It seems to me that we are witnessing resurgence of God in our daily lives. More and more people are talking, showing, or displaying their love of God, and are trying to live a godly life. Knowledge is power, and the power of God is manifesting itself through our work. Working hard at realizing who should benefit from our work, and who directs our work should be a central theme in all our lives.