The Sacred Call to Normal Work: How the Reformation Renewed Vocation | Desiring God

book binder-16thc
16th-century book binder

Today Desiring God carried this fine article on the way in which the Reformation of the 16th century changed and influenced the Christian’s view of calling and work. In today’s environment with the world’s disparagement of work and the rise of slothfulness, the Reformation’s biblical principles need to be heard and practiced.

I quote a few paragraphs, encouraging you to read the entire article at the link below.

The evangelicals submitted and taught two practical applications from the principle of the sacredness of all work and vocations. First, all Christians were to “walk in” or “answer to their vocation.”1 “Walking in” one’s vocation encompassed faithfulness to one’s employer and attendant duties in the place of employment. Faithful labor was to be done for the Lord’s sake primarily, but the evangelical ministers also reiterated the principle of working for the love of one’s neighbor. They contended that one’s vocation, whatever it was, served and benefitted the commonwealth both socially and economically.2 Additionally, ministers reminded congregants to be content with their vocation and the work that God provided them.3

The evangelicals made another application of the principle “all space is sacred space” in regards to one’s labor and vocation. They argued that since God was deeply concerned about all vocations, and since all work and vocations were sacred, prayer should be made for all people in their respective vocations. Many Reformation prayer books, like Thomas Becon’s A flour of godly praiers (1550), contained prayers for magistrates, soldiers, mariners, travelers by land, lawyers, merchants, landlords, and mothers.

Within his prayer book, Becon offers a general prayer for all Christians to pray, that they all would “walke accordinge to [their] vocacion in thy feare.”4 In these prayer books, the evangelicals gave special attention to mothers. Mothers were encouraged both through sermons and implicitly through the wording of the prayers that their domestic work was “godly.” These evangelical prayer books implicitly taught English society that all spheres were sacred and were worthy of prayer to God. No vocation was too humble to petition his blessing for the work.

And then there was this principle that developed out of the previous one:

The English evangelicals reasoned that since all vocations and activities were holy in God’s sight, it was incumbent on believers to pursue their vocation with diligence. Industriousness, with it is corresponding virtues — self-discipline, self-governance, and perseverance — constituted an indispensable Christian virtue in the English Reformation ethos. There was no space for idleness in the Christian ethic.

One reason why diligence and idleness were addressed so frequently and zealously in evangelical catechisms and sermons was the context of increasing poverty in urban areas in England, particularly in London. The evangelicals observed that much of that poverty was due to idleness among men.

Diligence stood as a prominent theme in English evangelical print, and it was stressed to all audiences, regardless of age or status. Children were taught the value and benefits of diligence from their parents at a young age through catechesis in the household. The earliest evangelical catechisms and manuals of virtue emphatically encouraged youth to pursue diligence, “takynge payne with all thyne industry,” while also fleeing “slouthe and over much sle[e]pe.”9 In his catechism, William Perkins exhorted children and adults alike to “labour and toyle,” but also reminded Christians that diligence was “nothing and availes not, unlesse God still give his blessing.”10

And so the author applies these principles to the modern Christian in these words:

The English Reformation view of work and vocation can serve as a healthy model for us today. Persistent, disciplined, excellent work for the glory of God is noble and virtuous. There is dignity in any vocation and in performing one’s task, no matter how seemingly mundane or menial, while depending upon God to bless the outcome. God calls us to do all things, including our work, with excellence and joy for his glory (1 Corinthians 10:31). Idleness, laziness, and lack of responsibility are sins to be confessed and repented of.

Moses petitioned God on behalf of the congregation of Israel in Psalm 90:17 to “establish the work of our hands.” This statement humbly acknowledges utter dependence on God for any success in work. Unless he blesses and uses our skills, time management, education, and job opportunities, we will not prosper in them (Psalm 127:1). All is futile without God and his blessing. But when God blesses our labor and vocation, it will not be in vain (1 Corinthians 15:58). In fact, the work we do for God’s sake will have spiritual and eternal value (Matthew 25:14–30).

As with the evangelicals in Reformation England, we too can cultivate a disposition of doing all things heartily for our Lord (Colossians 3:23), asking him to “make us diligent & happy in the workes of our vocation.”15


Source: The Sacred Call to Normal Work: How the Reformation Renewed Vocation | Desiring God

Published in: on October 22, 2022 at 7:11 AM  Leave a Comment  

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