Death of a vocation warrior

I’ve been in Texas quite a bit this summer and was introduced to the HEB grocery stores.  They aren’t just supermarkets; they are megamarkets–but they are also clean, spacious, well-laid out, and they carry everything you could possibly need.

Now I know where the stores got their name (pronounced “H,” “E,” “B”):  They were started by a man named Howard E. Butt.  His son, Howard E. Butt, Jr., who took over the company, just died at the age of 89.

He ran the company after his father died, but after awhile he turned the management over to other members of his family and used his wealth for Christian philanthropy, from supporting Billy Graham’s ministry to funding church camps.  But his biggest cause was living out the Christian faith in the workplace.

For years, he did a 60-second spot on Christian radio entitled “The High Calling of Our Daily Work.”

I have never heard any of these spots.  (Have you?  If so, please report.)  I’m not sure of his specific theology of vocation (he was a Baptist), but he deserves credit for reminding Christians of this crucial teaching. [Read more…]

“Sully” screenwriter on vocation

The screenwriter for Clint Eastwood’s movie Sully, about the pilot who saved his passengers by landing in the Hudson River, is a devout Christian.

In talking about his faith and his movie, Todd Komarnicki discusses vocation, though he doesn’t use the term.  But he gets the concept:  God works through people. [Read more…]

Why we have cookouts and don’t work on Vocation Day

Our efforts to turn Labor Day into a Christian feast commemorating the doctrine of Vocation may be catching on.  I am reading and hearing more and more posts and sermons that are making the connection.

Moving from “labor” to “vocation” helps to explain the central question that always comes up about Labor Day.  If “labor” is so great, why do we celebrate it by not working?

If you think in terms of vocation, you realize that how we make a living is only one facet of our God-given callings.  In addition to the workplace, we also have vocations in the family, in the church, and in the society.  Each of our many vocations has its own “labor.”  And each has its own “neighbors” whom we are to love and serve.

So celebrating Vocation Day by spending time with our families and friends is perfectly appropriate.  What we do in the workplace day after day is, in part, to provide for our families.  They and our friends, as well as the general public, are our “neighbors.”

Loving and serving our neighbors is the purpose of every vocation.  Even Christians do not always realize this fact, so our posts are going to delve into this teaching a little today.  But having a cookout, doing summertime stuff, having a last mini-vacation before the busyness of the Fall–these are good ways to celebrate Vocation Day.

The “danger” in Luther’s doctrine of vocation?

A few months ago, Covenant Seminary Professor Dan Doriani wrote a post at Gospel Coalition entitled The Power—and Danger—in Luther’s Concept of Work.  It’s a good piece, and the author has a good understanding of the importance of Luther’s doctrine, including love and service to the neighbor.

But at the end, he moves to what he considers the “Danger” of Luther’s teaching.  Briefly, he says that Luther’s understanding of God’s calling sanctifies the status quo.  If you are in a lowly “dehumanizing” job, if you think of it as a calling from God, then you would never leave it.

It took Calvin, he says, to perfect Luther’s doctrine of vocation.

Read the entire post.  I quote part of it after the jump.  Then I try to answer the criticisms. [Read more…]

The purpose for work that we keep forgetting

A Labor Day post at offers “8 Biblical Principles of Work.”  The list, by seminary professor James Eckman, is thoughtful and instructive.  See it after the jump.

But the list is all about serving oneself or serving God.  It  leaves out what Luther taught is the major purpose of all vocations:  To love and serve one’s neighbors.

I see this so often:  Theological reflections about vocation that forget about the neighbor.  You really need to include this dimension.  Otherwise, work loses its moral significance.

You start thinking about your callings as something for your personal satisfaction (so that if you are not feeling satisfied, you must not really be called, an attitude that can wreck, for example, the vocation of marriage).  Or you start thinking about work as a “good work” that you are offering to God, as opposed to His gift and His instrument.

It’s love of neighbor that inspires you to do your best work for your customers.  It’s love of neighbor–your family, your fellow workers–that motivates you to work even though you are exhausted.  It’s love of neighbor–the good you are doing in the goods or services you are providing–that gives work its satisfaction.  And it’s love and service of the neighbor that is the fruit of faith and the way that God desires us to love and serve Him. [Read more…]

My vocation trilogy

I have written three books on vocation.  I just realized that this constitutes a trilogy.  They aren’t The Lord of the Rings, but they are connected  and build into a whole.

(1)  God at Work:  Your Christian Vocation in All of Life.  This sets forth the doctrine of vocation.

(2)  Family Vocation:  Your Christian Callings in Marriage, Parenthood, and Childhood.  Written with my daughter Mary Moerbe, this book explores in depth the various vocations within the family, showing too how the teachings about God’s presence in vocation and loving and serving the neighbor can help solve the problems in family life.  It also delves into other aspects of vocation that I came to after writing God at Work, including cross-bearing, self-sacrifice, and self-denial in vocation.

(3)  Working for Your Neighbor:  A Lutheran Primer on Vocation, Economics, and Ordinary Life.  This book is about the relationship between vocation and economics.  More than that, it explores the social dimension of economics, going into the history of the concept and its cultural impact.  Again, it also includes new insights that I have discovered in researching this rich, rich teaching, drawing on a range of other theologians and writers who have written thoughtfully about the concept.  I also go into more detail about the relationship between vocation and justification. [Read more…]