Saturday, November 10, 2012

The Purpose of Vocation

A few weeks ago Dr. Veith wrote an article about why we work. You may find his article here

Of note is his brief summation: The New York Times published an online column arguing that the purpose of work is leisure.  (We work for the sake of the weekend; we have a career so we can retire; we try to amass wealth so we can stop working.)  That is also the view of Aristotle (we need to leisure to fully exercise our intellects) and of medieval Catholicism (the contemplative life is more spiritual than the active life).  Luther’s doctrine of vocation, by contrast, challenged this view, teaching that the purpose of work in all vocations is to love and serve one’s neighbor.  

The point is this -- work is not to be focused on the temporal benefits and blessings it provides, but rather upon the neighbor.  Granted, leisure is a fine thing, even being able to retire and then volunteer or help out with the grandkids - a fantastic blessing.  However, that is not the point of work - the point of work, the point of vocation is to serve the neighbor -- temporal blessings that come are secondary.

Now, let us apply this not to work, but to the vocation of being a parent.  If God makes one a parent, the purpose of that vocation (over and above any temporal blessings it brings) is precisely to serve the children, to be parents to them, to raise them in the fear of the Lord, to care for them.

Now, what have we done if we look at our Children as an economic resource for the future?  While this is true (lots of kids would keep Social Security going longer, we need a bigger work force)... is that the point, or have we suddenly looked not at how we serve our children, but what we can get from them?  If we look at them as the source of economic strength or political strength, are we not focusing on how we want them to serve us rather than how we are called to serve them?

Children are indeed a blessing - but not a blessing as our sinful flesh views blessing.  Our flesh views blessing in terms of what pleasure or benefit we get out of it.  That is not how children are to be thought of as blessings.  Children are blessings because when given, God has given a new person to serve, a new vocation, a new way to take up your own cross and serve God, a new way to pour out your own life as living sacrifices for your neighbor.  They are blessings, even if they drive you to be poor in spirit or mourn, even when their squabbling forces you to play the peacemaker.

Or, to twist around a Kennedy quote - ask not what your children can do for you, but what you can do for your children.

(P.S.  Or another image -- while it may be true that if your congregation had more members there would be more money, the congregation's bottom line is a lousy motivation to start an "Evangelism" project.  Go love your neighbor and serve them -- don't seek new people to serve you.)

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