Gene Veith wrote an excellent article for TCG on the purpose of our work. I encourage you to read it here. This article is even more relevant, given our present economic issues. Why do we go to work in the first place? Is it merely for the paycheck that affords us to do all the things we really want to do? Are we just working for the weekend? Many would seem to agree with Josh Thompson’s country song, “It puts the beer on the table.”
But is that the primary reason to be looking for work? Veith reminds us of Martin Luther’s contribution in the doctrine of vocation. We work to love and serve our neighbor. Christians should understand this better than anyone:
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.
This gives so much more meaning and purpose to being a truck driver or receptionist or even a trash man. I know that many today are having to settle for jobs in this economic climate in which they are “over qualified.” And sure, if you are gifted to serve in a certain way and educated for that means, you should pursue a job that fits your talents. But in the meantime, we can still be happy to love and serve our neighbors in the way that God has providentially provided. With this mindset, more jobs may be created as we think of new ways our neighbor can be better served. I don’t want to make light of the serious issue of people being out of work, but I do want to encourage a proper understanding of why we do it in the first place.
This article also made me think about thankfulness (as did one of the comments). When our view on vocation is correct, we will be so much more appreciative of the small tasks done everyday for our service. When we “give thanks” for our food, we are not only giving thanks for our job that helped pay for it, but also the workers that provided it for us–the truck drivers, farmers, shelf-stockers, grocery shoppers, cook, and even the trash man who will help us to move on.
I’m actually on a weekend trip right now. Leisure and repose are valuable for sure. As I type, everyone is still asleep, and I am watching the sunrise over the beautiful, fall mountains in Deep Creek, Maryland. I am also thankful for get-aways. But that should renew our souls as we go out and serve in God’s creation. Veith’s article helped me to spend this time contemplating God’s wonderful economy. Our vocations are not meant to be self-serving.
A question for reflection: Will there be vocations on the new heavens and the new earth? How does this affect our tasks now?