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, concluding: “Let each his lesson learn with care and all the household well shall fare.”
Escaping from a church that exalted holy orders 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, to Christ out of faith in Christ. That’s a good reminder on Labor Day weekend.
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, Jesus, and St. Paul.
Paul wrote, for instance, “Each person is to live in the situation the Lord assigned to him” (1 Cor. 7:17 EHV). That little word “assigned” means to apportion, distribute, deal out. God may change our role or situation many times. But the reality is that not all people will 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. Paul urges us to be content in the corner where God has placed us. God will make it all eternally matter.
It’s like those lines by England’s 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 [that] 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!”
We live out our lives in our different corners with a light touch on the things of this world – aware that all of it is fast fading away. We partake of life’s duties and tears and laughter and love – but we keep an inner distance from them. Whatever our corner, we serve the Lord by serving those around us. We strive to live in undivided and undistracted devotion to Christ. By faith in Christ, we can say with the psalmist: “The lines have fallen unto to me in pleasant places,” in a fair corner infinitely better than any Sussex by the sea. Christ in our corner here, we in His home hereafter! “Even so, Lord Jesus, quickly come!”