Vieth, Jr., Gene Edward. God at Work: Your Christian Vocation in All of Life. Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2002. 176 pp. $15.99. Purchase at Westminster Books for less or for Kindle.
Note: This review first appeared in The Pathway.
Gary L. Shultz, Jr., Reviewer
Work is hard. Although God originally created us to live with him in a perfect world, fulfilling our tasks in flawless harmony with him, one another, and the creation, we now live in a sin-cursed world where we make our ways by the sweat of our brows, with thorns and thistles frustrating our harvests. Work is often monotonous, boring, and thankless, something to endure rather than a blessing to celebrate. Even jobs that make a real difference in peoples’ lives, that come with high pay and an enhanced reputation, wear people down. Despite the amount of time we all spend working, whether paid or not, we often struggle to see the purpose of our work, or how we can possibly do our work to the glory of God.
Historically, the doctrine of vocation was meant to address these concerns. While we typically use the term “vocation” today as just a fancy word for “job,” the term comes from the Latin word for “calling,” and originally meant much more than just a “job.” We are called to salvation through the word of the gospel (2 Thess 2:14), we are called to a particular act of service in the church (1 Cor 1:1-2), and we are called to be married or single (1 Cor 7:15-20). The doctrine of vocation helps us understand that our careers, along with our callings in the family, the church, and the community, are God-given. It also gives us insight into why God has us work and how we are supposed to work.
Gene Vieth’s purpose behind God At Work is to help us recover the doctrine of vocation and the practical difference it makes in living for God. He begins by exploring the purpose of vocations, discovering your vocations, and how God works in and through vocations. He then examines the various vocations to which every person is called, and finishes the book by addressing some common questions and problems with the doctrine.
All people, believers and unbelievers, have multiple callings. Every person is called to live as a citizen of a particular community and country, with the attendant responsibilities that entails (Rom 13:1-7). Every person is called to serve other people with their unique gifts and abilities, whether in the home or in the workplace. All people are called to be in families, and might even have several vocations in their families, such as father, son, and husband. There is one key vocational difference between believers and unbelievers, however, as believers are called through the gospel unto salvation and then called to live and serve in the church, the people of God (1 Pet 2:9-10).
God’s purpose in our vocations is for us to honor him by fulfilling our callings among the people he has put in our lives. I am supposed to serve others through my vocations, and you are supposed to serve others through your vocations. When this is happening as it should, everyone is constantly giving and receiving. Concerning work, I didn’t harvest the grain that went into my biscuit for breakfast, and I didn’t bake it either; others did this on my behalf through their vocations of farmer and baker, even if they didn’t do so consciously. In exchange, I pastor, preach, teach and write. Behind all of this is God, who works through both believers and unbelievers. The difference for us as believers is that we are to live out our vocations by faith, as followers of Jesus Christ. God calls us to work, in all the areas of our lives, in order to bless us and bless others through us, for his glory and for our good.