As a teenager, one of the random ruminations I would had was that of calling. There used to be (and I’m sure there still is) a supposition, that for a Christian, the most noble and desirable work was to preach God’s word or evangelize. Using that premise, my logic lead me to think that all men and women, should aspire to become pastors or missionaries, since all men and women should aspire to the most noble work possible. But then I ran into a problem. In my logic, I had eradicated the very society I live in. Who would grow the food I eat? Who will perform in musicals to entertain? Who will tend to the sick? Then, I had to put my premise into question, “Is preaching and evangelizing really the most noble work on earth?” Only later did I realized I had been asking the wrong question.
Martin Luther is most helpful in addressing this issue, here’s an excerpt from Tchividjian’s blog illustrating Luther’s clever way of answering the issue:
Martin Luther was once approached by a man who enthusiastically announced that he’d recently become a Christian. Wanting desperately to serve the Lord, he asked Luther, “What should I do now?” As if to say, should he become a minister or perhaps a traveling evangelist. A monk, perhaps.
Luther asked him, “What is your work now?”
“I’m a shoe maker.”
Much to the cobbler’s surprise, Luther replied, “Then make a good shoe, and sell it at a fair price.”
It is inevitable that we face drudgery in our work, to expect none is to be naive. But to not see one’s vocation as valuable is to have an erred sense of what ‘nobility’ means. There is a foundational difference in the two questions, “What is the most noble work?” vs “How is this work valuable?” The former assumes a hierarchy of jobs, where a trash collector will never be as important as a professor. This assumption is practically detrimental, if not flat out wrong. Well then, what is a right view of vocation? Tchividjian’s entire post is worth reading and helpful, but to aid us in the right direction, I offer these two quotes from Luther:
The idea that the service to God should have only to do with a church altar, singing, reading, sacrifice, and the like is without doubt but the worst trick of the devil. How could the devil have led us more effectively astray than by the narrow conception that service to God takes place only in a church and by the works done therein…The whole world could abound with the services to the Lord, Gottesdienste – not only in churches but also in the home, kitchen, workshop, field.
What you do in your house is worth as much as if you did it up in heaven for our Lord God…We should accustom ourselves to think of our position and work as sacred and well-pleasing to God, not on account of the position and work, but on account of the word and faith from which the obedience and the work flow.
And to fill your cubicle with a little bit of joy and a little less drudgery, here’s one of the best comic strips in the world: Dilbert.