Saturday, October 13, 2012

Another perspective on work... reward... and retirement... and vocation

Do we work so we don't have to?  From weekend to vacation to retirement, we increasingly see work as a necessary evil to get where we want to be -- in leisure.  As pervasive as this view is, it is challenged by Luther, by the doctrine of vocation, and by the understanding of life as the arena of work that glorifies God in that work.  So comes the response of noted Lutheran Gene Edward Vieth in responding to Gary Gutting.

Read them both and reflect upon the positions.  I especially like Vieth's affirmation:

"God does not need our good works," Luther taught. "But our neighbor does." Our relationship with God is established solely by his grace in the atoning work of Jesus Christ. But then he sends us out into the world to live out our Christian faith in love and service to our neighbors.

Furthermore, God himself, in his providential care for his whole creation, is working through our human vocations. God gives us our daily bread by means of the farmer, the miller, and the baker. He protects us by means of lawful magistrates. He creates and cares for new human beings by means of fathers and mothers. He proclaims his Word and administers his sacraments by means of pastors. He creates beauty by means of artists and musicians.


The economy can indeed be a dog-eat-dog, Darwinistic, self-obsessed struggle, which we yearn to escape---whether on a weekend, a vacation, or retirement. But even the leisure, bought at such a cost, may still keep us trapped within ourselves. The doctrine of vocation, properly understood, frees us from our sinful selves through the gospel as our love for God overflows into love for our neighbors.  Our very work becomes transformed not in its substance---Christian workers mostly perform the same tasks as non-Christian workers---but in its meaning and in its value.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Dear Rev. Peters: I quote from the posting:

“The doctrine of vocation, properly understood, frees us from our sinful selves through the gospel as our love for God overflows into love for our neighbors. “

With all respect for Dr. Veith (normally this clause is followed by something that shows one does not respect the person at all, but I really do, as I respect you, Rev. Peters), this statement shows clearly that we do not understand the Gospel. This, in spite of our insistence that we do, and that we, the LCMS, are, in fact, the visible Church of God on earth. Therefore, I do not blame Dr. Veith; he merely repeats what has become the mantra of the vast majority of pastors.

What frees us from our sinful selves is regeneration in the waters of Baptism, in which the old self is drowned, and a new person is resurrected, who is a child of God, filled with the Holy Spirit. If we never hear of the doctrine of vocation, God’s work in His Sacrament is still efficacious, according to His promise. Therefore, we love God and our neighbor because that is intrinsic to our new nature.

But as our Confessions clearly teach, this new person is far from perfect, except in the eyes of God. Hence the expression, “simul iustus et peccator.” So it is not a matter of our love for God “overflowing into love for our neighbor.” It is God’s gift to us to be able to love both Him and our neighbor. As we know, in the majority of cases (such people as Mother Theresa being the exception) there is not enough love in us to be able to say that it “overflows.” That’s part of the word play we use to justify the system of sanctification that does not rely on regeneration in Baptism and the work of the Holy Spirit in us. It sounds so reasonable, but it is a human invention contrary to the Gospel.

This is not to vilify the Doctrine of Vocation, which is a good thing, because it continually reminds us that a time will come when our Lord will invite us, Matthew 25:34, “Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world …”. God’s people serve their neighbor in their vocation, even when they are not aware of it.

Peace and Joy!
George A. Marquart