Though it is late this Labor Day and I am weary (partly from a ten-mile bike ride with grandchildren and partly from some home projects that this beautiful day afforded us the opportunity to do), I do want to make a post on the subject of labor tonight.
Sorting through some books I picked up at a local thrift store Saturday, I found a duplicate copy of Gene E. Veith, Jr.’s book God at Work: Your Christian Vocation in All of Life (Crossway, 2002). I took it home today and started browsing it, and found it to be a profitable work on the nature of our work as Christians. And Veith, being a good Lutheran, rooted his explanation of vocation in Martin Luther’s rediscovery of the biblical doctrine of calling and the believer’s office of priest.
In his opening chapter, “Introduction: The Christian’s Calling in the World,” Veith describes the classic Reformation doctrine as taught by Luther. I can only give you a few glimpses, but this book is certainly worth your time.
‘The priesthood of all believers’ did not make everyone into church workers; rather, it turned every kind of work into a sacred calling. A major issue at the time [of the Reformation] was the prohibition of marriage for people in the religious orders. The Reformers looked at Scripture and insisted that marriage is ordained by God and that the family, far from being somewhat less spiritual than the life of a hermit or anchorite, is the arena for some of the most important spiritual work. A father and a mother are ‘priests’ to their children, not only taking care of their physical needs, but nourishing them in the faith. Every kind of work, including what had heretofore been looked down upon – the work of peasants and craftsmen – is an occasion for priesthood, for exercising a holy service to God and to one’s neighbor.
I found these paragraphs profitable too:
The Reformation may have resulted in a ‘Protestant work ethic,’ but this was not due to the pressure to prove one’s election by worldly success, as certain social scientists ludicrously maintain. Rather, the work ethic emerged out of an understanding of the meaning of work and the satisfaction and fulfillment that come from ordinary human labor when seen through the light of the doctrine of vocation.
That the Reformation was the time in which the Protestant church enjoyed its greatest cultural influence – in art, literature, music, as well as in social institutions – has to do with the doctrine of vocation (p.21).