God at Work: Your Christian Vocation in All of Life by Gene Edward Veith Jr. Crossway. 176 pages. 2011 edition.
In this helpful book, Gene Veith gives us an exposition of the doctrine of vocation, and then he applies that doctrine in a practical way to life in the twenty-first century. He begins by looking at the nature of vocation – what is the purpose of vocation, how to find one’s vocation, how God calls us to different tasks and how He is present in what we do in our everyday lives. He then addresses specific vocations and specific problems common to them all. His treatment of vocation is drawn mainly from Martin Luther’s understanding of vocation.
Veith tells us that God has chosen to work through human beings, who, in their different capacities and according to their different talents, serve each other. This is the doctrine of vocation. The purpose of vocation is to love and serve one’s neighbor. The doctrine of vocation encourages attention to each individual’s uniqueness, talents, and personality. These are valued as gifts of God, who creates and equips each person in a different way for the calling He has in mind for that person’s life.
Veith tells us that the Reformation theologians emphasized the equality of vocations before God, and that each Christian has multiple vocations. We have callings in our work, in our families, as citizens in the larger society, and callings in the church. In addition, callings change over time. And whatever our vocation is, and in the very way it changes, our callings are not completely under our control; rather, they come from the Lord’s hand. Despite what our culture leads us to believe, vocation is not self-chosen. We do not choose our vocations, instead, we are called to them.
Finding your vocation, has to do, in part, with finding your God-given talents (what you can do) and your God-given personality (what fits the person you are). The doctrine of vocation, though it has to do with human work, is essentially about God’s work and how God works in and through our lives. Our part is to carry out our vocations. The outcome belongs completely to the Lord.
Veith tells us that the Christian life is to be lived in vocation, in the seemingly ordinary walks of life that take up nearly all of the hours of our day. The Christian life is to be lived out in our family, our work, our community, and our church.
In addition to the doctrine of vocation, topics that the author addresses in the book are the origins of work, evangelism, callings in the family, society and church, rest and retirement. This is an excellent introduction to the topic of the vocations and callings of the Christian.
Here are some of my favorite quotes from the book:
- Work is a blessing; work is a curse. Work can indeed be satisfying, since it is what we were made for, but it can also be frustrating, pointless, and exhausting. Work is a virtue, but it is tainted by sin.
- Christians are engaged in the world by carrying out their vocations. This is how they can be a positive influence in the culture.
- It is in vocation that evangelism can most effectively happen.
- The family is the foundational vocation. Other earthly authorities grow out of the authority exercised in the family.
- Being a citizen of a particular nation is a divine calling.
- Being a Christian is itself a calling. That is to say, a person becomes a Christian by being called by God.
- Laypeople are especially positioned to reach people outside the church, by virtue of their secular vocations, which put them in contact with people who would never darken the door of a church.
- What surprises some Christians is that when all is said and done, the specific responsibilities of vocation are not any different, from the outside, for Christians or non-Christians. A Christian construction worker or a Christian physician does pretty much what a good non-Christian in those fields must do.
- We indeed have a calling to serve in our local churches, but it must be emphasized that our so-called “secular” vocations are actually “holy offices” where we are to serve our neighbors and live out our faith.
- The Bible tells us to work; it also tells us to rest. We are to pause from our work to worship God on the Sabbath Day. In vocation, we are to rest in Christ even when we are hard at work.
- Retirement from a lifelong vocation can be difficult, especially for those with Protestant work ethics. Properly, though, the laying down of a vocation after many years of work is a kind of Sabbath, a kind of reward for service rendered.