Our Life with God, Lesson 5: Serving Your Neighbor: The Doctrine of Vocation

Faith at WorkWhen we thank God for our food before a meal, we are right to do so.  For He does provide our food, and He does so through vocation—regular people doing their everyday jobs.


It’s Identity: You Serve Based on Who You Are

Imagine you are a son, 14 years old, still living at home.  Your role in your family originates from who you are—a son.  You did not choose to be born into your family; it’s the result (we hope) of your father and mother living out their vocations to serve each other as husband and wife.

Flowing from your place within the family, you live out your call to be a faithful son.  Being faithful, however, does not make you a son, any more than the apple created the apple tree from which it came.  But understanding your vocation of “son” does help you live out that vocation in a reliable way, serving others in your family as a son within that family.  Yet, serving as a son is a secondary feature of vocation, a result of being a son.  God calls us to live a life of service based on who we are.

Matthew 15:10-11, 19: Calling on the crowd, Jesus told them, “Listen and understand.  What goes into someone’s mouth does not defile him, but what comes out of the mouth, this is what defiles him….  What comes out of the mouth comes from the heart, and this defiles the person.  For out of the heart come evil thoughts—murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, and slander.”

  • Connect the cause-and-effect link between heart and mouth when it comes to vocation.


Who You are and Vocation

As the imaginary son above, your primary identity is from our family—your family (last) name, which follows you all our days.  As a baptized son of God (even the women), we draw our identity from our heavenly Father.

Galatians 3:26-27: You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.

  • What does God do through faith in Christ Jesus?


  • According to this verse, how does God bring about this faith in Christ Jesus?


  • What does being a “son” mean?


Baptism gives you a new identity in Christ Jesus as a “son” of God.  Sin is no longer who you are; that belongs to old, dead Adam.  You are now whom God has created you to be!

In the congregation at Corinth, some had a scandalous past.  But their earlier sins did not define their present identity.

Read 1 Corinthians 6:9-11

Despite their sinful past, their identity came from what God did for them in Christ.

  • What was their identity based on? (1 Corinthians 6:11)


  • Instead of our sins, with whom does our baptismal identity causes us to identify?


1 Corinthians 12:18-30: God has placed the parts in the body, every one of them, as he wanted.  Now, if they were all the same body part, where would the body be?  So there are many parts, but one body.

God—making use of your family and your culture—created you as you are.  What you do is based on who you are in Christ, which also has to do with the mystery of individuality.  God creates each person to be different from the rest and gives each a unique calling in every stage of life.

You have particular talents, which you are to understand are His gifts.  You have an individual personality, with interests, likes, and dislikes that not everyone shares.  Such is the generosity of God’s creation that no two people—or leaves, snowflakes, or anything else God has made—are exactly alike.

Vocations are also unique, with no two individuals taking up the same space in the family, nation, Church, or workplace.  Finding your vocation, then, includes discovering your God-given talents—your abilities, your personality, your passions, and what fits the person you are.


Vocation: The Fruits of Faith

Galatians 5:6: In Christ Jesus, neither circumcision nor uncircumcision matters; what matters is faith working through love.

  • In the New Covenant, why does circumcision no longer matter?


Colossians 2:11-13:

In Christ, you were also circumcised with a circumcision.  This wasn’t done by human hands but by stripping off the corrupt nature through the circumcision done by Christ, having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the working of God, who raised him from the dead.  When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made you alive with Christ, having forgiven all your sins.

  • What did Jesus do to fulfill Old-Covenant circumcision?


  • What does God do through baptism when it comes to your sins?


Galatians 5:6: In Christ Jesus, neither circumcision nor uncircumcision matters; what matters is faith working through love.

  • As His baptized child (or son), what now matters?


The Christian’s “Power Source” for His Vocation (as a Christian)

Read John 15:1-8

  • Using metaphor, who is Jesus and who are we?


  • What does this mean?


As Christians, apart from being connected to Christ (the Vine), we (the branches) cannot do anything.  We live in the love of Christ so we can serve our neighbor with that same love.  Without Christ as the life-giving source, our good works would wither away and die, just like a branch cut off from a vine.

In other words, our life of faith, which includes our vocations through which we serve others, is an extension of the Divine Service.  During the worship service, in Word and Sacrament, we receive Jesus and His life and salvation.  You don’t primarily serve God during worship; He serves you.  You serve Him through serving others in your life.  The Christian life is a giving life because Christ gave and gives to us.

“In God’s sight… faith that makes a person holy; it alone serves God, while our works serve people” (Large Catechism, 4th Commandment).  God doesn’t need our good works—but our neighbor does!


Where We Serve in our Vocations

Romans 12:1-2:

By the mercies of God, offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God; this is your logical [priestly] worship.  Do not be conformed to this world, but continuously be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may test and approve what is God’s will—what is proper, pleasing, and perfect.

  • In the New Covenant, everyone is brought into God’s Royal Priesthood (1 Peter 2:9). Our priestly duties do not involve offering animal sacrifices but, instead, offering what?


  • Discuss being a “living sacrifice.”


1 Corinthians 7:17: Let each person lead the life that the Lord has assigned to him, to which God has called him.  This is what I command in all the churches.

  • Does God call us to be a “living sacrifice” hidden away from the world or in the thick of it?


Living the Christian life is intertwined in the common, everyday tasks that make up life in this world.  The Apostle Paul meant as much when he instructed Christians to stay where the Lord had placed them.  In such a setting, faith moves the Christian away from a slavish self-love toward a freedom to love others, secure in God’s love, serving in such ways and places.


Who is My Neighbor Whom I Serve?

Where we are placed in life determines who our neighbor is.  We are limited beings with finite abilities and resources living within the communities.  So, if you are married, your closest neighbor is your spouse.  God does not call us to love an abstract humanity, but real people with real needs.

After your spouse, your nearest neighbor is your child (or children).  And it moves outward from there to include people with whom you work, church members, and members of your community.  But this does not mean you limit your love to others only in those spheres.  Your love may extend to the stranger whom you encounter as you go about your everyday tasks.


5, Who is My Neighbor


Go over the Parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37)


5, Vocation--Christ For Us, In Us, and Through Us



Click here to go to the next Lesson.