God’s Kingdom and Social Justice: Vocation

Screen Shot 2016-08-20 at 7.53.41 AMOne of the themes in John Nugent’s excellent book The Endangered Gospel is that the church is not called to make the world the better place but to be the better place now.

Does such a view promote quietism, passivism (socially) and does it mean social justice doesn’t matter?

Good question. The answer is No, unequivocally. I have argued this in Kingdom Conspiracy and it all revolves around mission — the Christian mission. Nugent examines three topics: vocation, missions, and witness to the powers. Today we look at vocation.

On Vocation:

If the church’s primary vocation is to be the better place God has made through Christ, then most of this work can only take place in the common life of the church. We proclaim the good news beyond the assembly of believers, but we can’t forget the substance of that proclamation: the kingdom isn’t work believers do but a work that God has done on our behalf. It is a gift that God has given us to embrace and display in our love-filled life together. 170

For individual believers this often means that our occupations—in and of themselves—cannot be our primary vocation, whatever good it may be doing for the world. Seeking first God’s kingdom remains primary. … 1. It means that our time at work, like our time at home and with the church, is a time for embracing, displaying, and proclaiming God’s kingdom.

There are countless ways to contribute to the common good and to make a positive difference in people’s lives. There are endless opportunities for making this world a bit better. However, it must be remembered that even if a particular job seizes such an opportunity, it is not therefore “kingdom” work. It is not of the kingdom if it does not participate in the Spirits work of forming communities that embrace, display, and proclaim God kingdom, and scattering them throughout the world as witnesses to God’s accomplished work through Christ. It may be good work and well worth our time, but it’s not our vocation. 171

No matter what our occupation may be, there are almost always three basic ways to bear witness to God’s kingdom. The first has to do with how we carry out our assigned responsibilities. Will we be faithful and content with the work we have been given to do or will we covet authority that hasn’t been given to us and resent those to whom it has been given? 172

We may also bear witness to God’s kingdom by treating fellow employees equally.

A third way to bear witness to God’s kingdom at work has to do with our exercise of power. 173

How to choose a job, an occupation that maximizes our vocation in the kingdom?

What jobs best enable us to display and proclaim God’s kingdom?
What jobs situate us in places that desperately need churches to embrace, display, and proclaim God’s kingdom?
What jobs won’t monopolize our time, passions, and energy?
What jobs are compatible with our witness to God’s kingdom?
What jobs shape us to be the kind of people the kingdom is shaping us to be?
What jobs help us meet specific needs within Christ’s body?
What jobs give our church access to resources that will strengthen our witness?

About Scot McKnight

Scot McKnight is a recognized authority on the New Testament, early Christianity, and the historical Jesus. McKnight, author of more than fifty books, is the Professor of New Testament at Northern Seminary in Lombard, IL.