The Acton Institute has put together a sample from my new book Working for Our Neighbor: A Lutheran Primer on Vocation, Economics, and Ordinary Life. It doesn’t include the new things I get into in this particular publication–much of what is excerpted here is developed in more detail in God at Work–but this gives a summary of Luther’s neighbor-centered ethic and the purpose of every vocation (namely, to love and serve our neighbors).
For Martin Luther, vocation is nothing less than the locus of the Christian life. God works in and through vocation, but he does so by calling human beings to work in their vocations. In Jesus Christ, who bore our sins and gives us new life in his resurrection, God saves us for eternal life. But in the meantime he places us in our temporal life where we grow in faith and holiness. In our various callings—as spouse, parent, church member, citizen, and worker—we are to live out our faith.So what does it mean to live out our faith in our callings? The Bible is clear: faith bears fruit in love (Gal. 5:6; 1 Tim. 1:5). Here we come to justification by faith and its relationship to good works, and we also encounter the ethical implications of vocation. According to Luther’s doctrine of vocation, the purpose of every vocation is to love and serve our neighbors.