The vocation of a child

The post yesterday from Christopher Tollefsen about homeschooling referred to the vocation of a child. Luther too said that being a child is a vocation, just as being a husband, wife, father, or mother is a calling from God. So, what is involved in the vocation of childhood? Who are the child’s neighbors whom he or she is to love and serve? What is the work entailed in childhood? How does this vocation change as the child grows from infancy through adulthood?

About Gene Veith

Professor of Literature at Patrick Henry College, the Director of the Cranach Institute at Concordia Theological Seminary, a columnist for World Magazine and TableTalk, and the author of 18 books on different facets of Christianity & Culture.

  • fws

    ah .. ahem.. you WOULD have to pick this topic Dr Veith.

    True earthly righteousness that pleased God and is necessary for us to do has only two parts: self-discipline/restraint (aka mortification of the flesh to make us use-able+ Love. Love is actions that make the lives of others better.

    These two parts look like the positive and negative parts in the explanation to the small catechism. “we should not…we should…”.

    Earthly righteousness is the necessary work we do where God has situated us in life. Good Works + Where we are in life = Vocation.

    I think the self-discipline/retraint part is probably pretty obvious.

    I am thinking you are asking then about how a child is to love others: what actions, in a vocation as child, are necessary for a child to do to make life better for others around him?

    My vote for the main one is a simple one:

    Be generous. Be the opposite of selfish. Share toys. Share food. Be last in line. Accept what is left over after everyone else choses theirs. (boy do I have a guilt list here from childhood!)…

  • fws

    ah .. ahem.. you WOULD have to pick this topic Dr Veith.

    True earthly righteousness that pleased God and is necessary for us to do has only two parts: self-discipline/restraint (aka mortification of the flesh to make us use-able+ Love. Love is actions that make the lives of others better.

    These two parts look like the positive and negative parts in the explanation to the small catechism. “we should not…we should…”.

    Earthly righteousness is the necessary work we do where God has situated us in life. Good Works + Where we are in life = Vocation.

    I think the self-discipline/retraint part is probably pretty obvious.

    I am thinking you are asking then about how a child is to love others: what actions, in a vocation as child, are necessary for a child to do to make life better for others around him?

    My vote for the main one is a simple one:

    Be generous. Be the opposite of selfish. Share toys. Share food. Be last in line. Accept what is left over after everyone else choses theirs. (boy do I have a guilt list here from childhood!)…

  • Mary Jack

    Children are called to teach their parents patience and that love must be given and not earned.

  • Mary Jack

    Children are called to teach their parents patience and that love must be given and not earned.

  • Orianna Laun

    I would offer that learning is part of the vocation of childhood. Learning everything from how to walk and talk to reading, writing, and arithmetic.

  • Orianna Laun

    I would offer that learning is part of the vocation of childhood. Learning everything from how to walk and talk to reading, writing, and arithmetic.

  • http://lutherama.blogspot.com Dr. Luther in 21st Century

    The vocation of the child can be summed up as – Honor your father and your mother that it may go well with you.

    The things the others have mentioned are all subsets of honoring our parents.

  • http://lutherama.blogspot.com Dr. Luther in 21st Century

    The vocation of the child can be summed up as – Honor your father and your mother that it may go well with you.

    The things the others have mentioned are all subsets of honoring our parents.

  • Arfies

    Teaching parents patience is a great point, and children do it well if the parents are receptive to it! Beyond that, the vocation of children seems to be to help parents (and grandparents) to love more deeply than they ever imagined. And I don’t think it’s outrageous to say that the vocation of a child is to learn what it means to be a human being, with all that humanity entails.

  • Arfies

    Teaching parents patience is a great point, and children do it well if the parents are receptive to it! Beyond that, the vocation of children seems to be to help parents (and grandparents) to love more deeply than they ever imagined. And I don’t think it’s outrageous to say that the vocation of a child is to learn what it means to be a human being, with all that humanity entails.

  • http://theoldadam.wordpress.com/ Steve Martin

    Learning, playing, making mistakes, obeying, worshipping.

    Just a few.

  • http://theoldadam.wordpress.com/ Steve Martin

    Learning, playing, making mistakes, obeying, worshipping.

    Just a few.

  • Dan Kempin

    fws, et. al.,

    Good insights, but there is a dimension missing. I would not even bring it up except that I believe this dimension of childhood vocation is so valuable. Jesus, in fact, taught us by using the vocation of a child, and further taught us that we ARE children. At any rate, the missing dimension is: Faith.

    The core and essence of a child’s vocation is to trust their parents. This is no more purely seen than in infants. As we grow and mature, it becomes more of a chore to trust in parents. The more a child learns, the more they are tempted to believe that they know better, or to question the providence of their parents. It is very humbling to be a child, and therein lies the blessing: not only are we (adults) reminded of our relationship to our heavenly Father through the vocation of our children, but we also experience a drop of our Father’s compassion for the struggles of ignorance and pride that our children face.

    “Whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will never enter it.”

    God bless the children in their holy vocation.

  • Dan Kempin

    fws, et. al.,

    Good insights, but there is a dimension missing. I would not even bring it up except that I believe this dimension of childhood vocation is so valuable. Jesus, in fact, taught us by using the vocation of a child, and further taught us that we ARE children. At any rate, the missing dimension is: Faith.

    The core and essence of a child’s vocation is to trust their parents. This is no more purely seen than in infants. As we grow and mature, it becomes more of a chore to trust in parents. The more a child learns, the more they are tempted to believe that they know better, or to question the providence of their parents. It is very humbling to be a child, and therein lies the blessing: not only are we (adults) reminded of our relationship to our heavenly Father through the vocation of our children, but we also experience a drop of our Father’s compassion for the struggles of ignorance and pride that our children face.

    “Whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will never enter it.”

    God bless the children in their holy vocation.

  • http://www.utah-lutheran.blogspot.com Bror Erickson

    When I was growing up, children were slave labor. They didn’t have a vocation. Indentured servants for 18 years, doing what your parents say. Well that’s what my parents said childhood was about.

  • http://www.utah-lutheran.blogspot.com Bror Erickson

    When I was growing up, children were slave labor. They didn’t have a vocation. Indentured servants for 18 years, doing what your parents say. Well that’s what my parents said childhood was about.

  • JonSLC

    A word I note in Scripture is “obey” when it comes to children and their vocation. (E.g., Ephesians 6.) As a parent, I observe that obeying is precisely the thing that the Old Adam in my kids does NOT want to do! Therefore, obeying calls for mortifying the flesh and showing love and honor to parents.

    I wonder if we’re hesitant to say that God’s will for kids is to obey. That word may conjure up some sinful images, like domineering or abusive parents. But “obey” can certainly be redeemed by defining it as a concrete way for kids to show love and honor for their parents.

  • JonSLC

    A word I note in Scripture is “obey” when it comes to children and their vocation. (E.g., Ephesians 6.) As a parent, I observe that obeying is precisely the thing that the Old Adam in my kids does NOT want to do! Therefore, obeying calls for mortifying the flesh and showing love and honor to parents.

    I wonder if we’re hesitant to say that God’s will for kids is to obey. That word may conjure up some sinful images, like domineering or abusive parents. But “obey” can certainly be redeemed by defining it as a concrete way for kids to show love and honor for their parents.

  • http://mesamike.org Mike Westfall

    According to my mom (at least when I was a kid), a child’s vocation is to be seen and not heard…

  • http://mesamike.org Mike Westfall

    According to my mom (at least when I was a kid), a child’s vocation is to be seen and not heard…

  • Stephanie

    Slave labor and tax write-offs. And boy did I get grief about being born in January so that they “had to keep [me] a whole year before getting the tax benefit.” :)

  • Stephanie

    Slave labor and tax write-offs. And boy did I get grief about being born in January so that they “had to keep [me] a whole year before getting the tax benefit.” :)

  • Peter Leavitt

    The vocation of children is to adhere to proper authority through loving and obeying their parents along with other betters; work hard, and try to excel in school and play, as well as to learn the rudiments of biblical and authoritative religion. Having accomplished this, they may then have a decent chance of leading a good and successful life.

    Should a child fall prey to the romantic idea that they are wonderful, precious souls who need to do their own thing and enjoy life, then most likely they shall end up as rather whining, loose, narcissistic souls that we see all around us.

  • Peter Leavitt

    The vocation of children is to adhere to proper authority through loving and obeying their parents along with other betters; work hard, and try to excel in school and play, as well as to learn the rudiments of biblical and authoritative religion. Having accomplished this, they may then have a decent chance of leading a good and successful life.

    Should a child fall prey to the romantic idea that they are wonderful, precious souls who need to do their own thing and enjoy life, then most likely they shall end up as rather whining, loose, narcissistic souls that we see all around us.

  • justme

    Ever notice how the two simple words “please” and “thank you” are easy and fun for children to learn and use; they do it so freely and joyfully and naturally (kinda like their faith), yet sadly how easily they forget once they become adults (again, perhaps like their once simple and childlike faith). Any wonder why? Thanks and God Bless!

  • justme

    Ever notice how the two simple words “please” and “thank you” are easy and fun for children to learn and use; they do it so freely and joyfully and naturally (kinda like their faith), yet sadly how easily they forget once they become adults (again, perhaps like their once simple and childlike faith). Any wonder why? Thanks and God Bless!


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