What is Vocation?
Stephen J. Nichols
Presbyterian & Reformed, 2010
ISBN 978 1 59638 177 3
pbk. 31 pp. $3.99.
This is a great little book. In only 30 pages Stephen J. Nichols paints a wonderful picture of the importance and necessity of seeing work as a vocation.
This booklet is part of a series called ‘Basics of faith’ published by P&R. Nichols, professor of Christianity and culture at Lancaster Bible College, explores what the doctrine of vocation looks like in the twentieth century as well as how it was shaped by the Reformers in the sixteenth century.
Vocation in recent decades has become something of a dirty word, or one that is only applied to vicars and ministers. Vocations only apply to certain (usually professional) careers, the rest of us have jobs. However, this was not the original meaning. It comes from the Latin vocatio or vocare, which means ‘calling’. Originally it meant a call to the priesthood, but the Reformers redeemed its use and used it to apply to all callings including being a parent, a spouse and to the professions (p. 8). Hence the term, ‘full-time Christian ministry’ applies to all Christians whatever area of life they work in.
In a brief biblical overview Nichols traces the link between the garden and the task of cultivation to a new horizon of understanding for work. In our work we are in the service of the King. In two short sections he looks at how not to and how to work. Here he draws upon the insights in Proverbs.
He writes with the aim of helping us see that work – be it paid or unpaid - needs to be viewed as a calling, as a vocation. It is a message that we all need to be reminded of. This booklet will certainly help do that.