The Views Of Martin Luther On Vocation

Martin Luther (1483-1546) was a highly influential German theologian and religious reformer whose impact caused him to become the catalyst of the 16th century Protestant Reformation. Luther’s aim was to disarm legalism; to take the power that was reserved for 'higher' people on the religious spectrum of the time and giving it to everyone. He realised that everyone has a role to play in God’s great plan for us, not just those who are appointed spiritual leaders. One of the main messages he taught was that of Romans 12:6, which reads, “we have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us,” and Acts 2:44: “all the believers were together and had everything in common.” Luther believed and taught that all Christians, clergy member and simple folk alike, have callings and vocations and that all callings were equal in religious and moral seriousness, only differing in their function.

Many may see Luther’s teaching of vocation as having to do with an individual’s specific occupation. This interpretation is not completely incorrect as much as it is restricted by its perspective. It reflects the very general notion of an occupation being referred to as someone’s vocation or calling with no reference to that call deriving from God. It may be suggested that Luther’s claim that vocation is to be primarily understood in relation to creation and law is the source for the truncated view of his position on vocation that is common today. It is difficult to contrast a persuasive doctrine of creation in our secular age and therefore easy to see why the perspective of vocation being dependent on God’s continuous creative involvement in history would fail. If people assume the world to be godless, the best we can do with vocation is to think of it as working for the good of others. While this may be substantially better than seeing life simply as autonomous humans in pursuit of personal gain with no other obligation than that to their families, it does not fully grasp the more comprehensive understanding Luther held.

God is not in need of our good works, but our neighbour is. We were sent here to serve each other, the people who God brought into our lives, as we have been brought into theirs, to carry out our callings. Luther had acquired this understanding of vocation upon choosing to serve as a monk, effectively fleeing his vocations as a son, student, and valuable citizen. However, it was only through this that he learned what he had gone against what God had created him for. What he did gave the appearance of a fully-fledged service to God, but God does not serve his creation through manmade attempts to flee from their callings; he serves through human vocations. We have the privilege of being God’s mouth, hands, and heart in the world we live in today; the privilege to show each other the love and compassion he holds for all. This is the true meaning of vocation: to use our God-given vocations to spread the truth, no matter who we are. 

16 August 2021
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