You may recall that at the end of The Small Catechism, Martin Luther tacked on what he called “The Table of Duties.” For husbands and wives, parents and children, pastors and parishioners, labor and management he set down the Bible passages that apply to each. At the end of the table of duties he put down the little poem: “Let each his lesson learn with care and all the household well shall fare.”
Coming out of a church that exalted “holy orders” (monk, nuns, etc.) and man-made works, Luther emphasized the sacredness of each Christian’s vocation or calling in life, sacred not because God shouts at us from heaven to be secretary or a farmer, but sacred because all that a Christian does is done for Christ and to Christ. Luther maintained, for instance, that the greatest work of faith a mother could do was to care for her children, that the best way a child could show his love for God was to obey his parents, that the best way for a laborer to let his light shine for Christ was to do the best job he could do. Luther got this notion from the Bible – from the sermons of John the Baptist, from Jesus, and from the writings of St. Paul.
St. Paul has something like this in mind when he writes in 1 Corinthians 7: “Each one should retain the place in life that the Lord assigned to him.” That little word “assigned” means to apportion, distribute, deal out.
The reality of this life is that not all people are dealt the same hand, nor given the same corner in which to live for God. Most of us will never become Oscar nominees, most valuable players, senators, presidents, 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 sons and daughters of the King of kings. The smallest, run-down apartment, the humblest job can become a pulpit for the everlasting gospel. Life and circumstances may certainly change. But Paul urges us to be content with the corner we are currently in.
It’s like those lines by 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!”
To each of us, as children of the Father, the lot has fallen in a fair corner here, and in an infinitely fairer ground hereafter than any “Sussex by the sea.” What will that fair place be like? “Even so, Lord Jesus, quickly come.”