Martin Luther defines vocation as the primary means by which Christians behave in the world around them and bring meaning to their own lives. God is meant to work through human beings, who participate in a vocation that provides something to others, the world, and God in general. Each person performs their job as service to God, as it is through their work that God grants others the fruits of their labor. All of our work to God is conveyed within our various jobs.
At first, vocation was meant to be strictly towards the priesthood, though Luther changed that by implying that secular duties were just as important to the faith as being a priest. Luther wrote that the Bible provides the proper instruction for manual laborers to offer their friendship and service to others – it shows you how your friends and neighbors should be treated. In other words, there is a spiritual element to each job you perform, and recognizing the work you do helps you to appreciate the work of others, fostering brotherhood and partnership among your fellow man. This manner of friendship and appreciation also brings you closer to God.
Spending your body and your energy to a hard day’s work is an offering to God himself – all of this work consists of small sacrifices which are made to the Lord as appreciation for all that He has given us. Luther divides vocation into three estates – the church, the household and civil government. The church vocation consists of normal Christian practices such as religious faith and praying; our vocation is honoring the Gospel and doing the work of the Church. Pastors perform their vocation by delivering the Word, and the average person can congregate, sing, and do whatever they can to pass on the Word of God.
The household vocation consists of the wife and children, caring for them and vice versa. The family is the primary worldly duty of a Christian, taking care of them and honoring them. Luther believed that the family was one of the most vital vocations there are, and therefore Labor Day was set up to give us time to perform that crucial duty.
The civil government forces us to work together with our fellow man on a much larger scale, voting and deciding how we should be self-governed. In all of these ways, we can be citizens of God, all doing our part for the greater good. Luther states that each vocation’s purpose is to look after and be kind to others, making every aspect and expression of vocation a move toward that end.
Vocation can mean many different things – it can mean working hard to provide others with material goods, or it can mean offering more spiritual and emotional returns to those you care about. Pure occupational or vocational work can be very helpful, but vocation can also be accomplished by doing kind things for others as well. God works through the laborers to provide people with the gifts they enjoy, from food to love. However, it is the duty of a Christian to provide God with that vocation – offering up their services to the community and spreading the word of God, as well as honoring their family. In this way, we gain a closer relationship with God and our fellow Christians.