The Purpose of Work

*Posted by Winston Hottman

There is a tendency in Christian circles to elevate certain types of vocations or ministries to a higher “spiritual” status than others. I have spoken with many people (stay at home moms, construction workers, lawyers, etc.) who think that their partiuclar vocations are insignificant in comparison to the vocations of pastors, missionaries and other church leaders.

In a post at the Gospel Coalition, Gene Edward Veith compares Aristotle and Luther’s views on the purpose of work, showing that the purpose of work in all its forms comes down to loving others and is providentially used by God for the care of his creation. There’s no such thing as insignificant work:

For Luther, vocation was far more than economic activity, including also our callings in our families, the church, and the culture as a whole. Each of these vocations calls us to particular neighbors whom we are to love and serve. Husbands are called to love and serve their wives, and wives are called to love and serve their neighbors. Pastors love and serve their parishioners, who love and serve each other. Rulers are to love and serve their subjects, and citizens love and serve each other for the common good.

Notice, vocation is not primarily about “serving God” for Luther. He was battling the high view of “contemplation” found in monasticism, which required the rejection of the vocations of marriage and parenthood (the vow of celibacy), the vocations of economic activity (the vow of poverty), and the vocations of citizenship (the vow of obedience, which replaced the authority of secular law with that of the church). Luther denied that “the contemplative life” of monasticism was more spiritual than “the active life” of ordinary Christians living in the world.  The problem with the former was that it tended to isolate Christians from their neighbors, at worse becoming a retreat into oneself. The monasteries claimed to serve God—indeed, to allow for salvation by works—but God in Scripture commands that we love and serve him by loving and serving our neighbors.

Find the rest of the piece here.

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