Folks from different walks of life asked John the Baptist how they could show their repentance and faith. The answers John gave were amazingly simple. If you’ve got two shirts and someone else has none – then give one away. Share your extra sandwich with the one who has none. And those notorious tax collectors or publicans – Jews who worked for the Roman government – John did not tell them to quit their jobs down at the revenue office – but to be honest tax collectors. He did not tell soldiers to quit the military, but rather not to bully people with their power, and of all things…to be content with their wages!
Coming out of a church that exalted holy orders and man-made works, Luther returned to the epistles of Paul and set down the Table of Duties on the back porch of his Small Catechism – what God has assigned to fathers and mothers, sons and daughters, husbands and wives, pastors and parishioners, employers and employees. He ended with the line: “Let each his lesson learn with care and all the household well shall fare.”
Luther, like St. Paul, emphasized the sacredness of each Christian’s “vocation” or calling in life, sacred not because God shouts at us from heaven to be a secretary or a farmer, but sacred because all that a Christian does is done for Christ and to Christ and by faith in Christ.
Paul once wrote: “Each person is to live in the situation the Lord assigned to him – the situation he was in when God called him to faith” (1 Cor. 7:17 EHV). The Lord may certainly change our circumstances. We may acquire different responsibilities in different chapters of our lives. But that little word “assigned” means to apportion, distribute, deal out. We often talk like this – playing the hand that has been dealt us.
The reality of this life is that not all people will become Oscar nominees, most valuable players, senators, presidents or Nobel prize winners. We shall not all live in mansions and take home six figure salaries. So what! This has nothing to do with our status as the baptized sons and daughters of the King of kings. The smallest, run-down apartment, the humblest job can be a pulpit for the everlasting gospel – in the very corner where God has placed us.
It’s like those lines by the writer and poet, Rudyard Kipling, who could have lived in much fancier places, but chose a house by the sea in a place called Sussex – a place lacking even running water and indoor plumbing.
The old Brit wrote: “God gave all men all earth to love, but since our hearts are small, ordained for each one spot should prove beloved over all…Each to his choice, and I rejoice the lot has fallen to me in a fair ground – in a fair ground – yea, Sussex by the sea!” Whatever chapter or corner of life is now our “fair ground,” let it be a labor of love for the Lord.