The Doctrine of Vocation in the Sermon on the Mount
Jesus says “seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness” (Matthew 6).
In the Middle Ages, before the Reformation, it was thought that life was divided into two areas — the “perfect life” and the “permissible life.” Those in “full time Christian service” lived the perfect life, and everyone else was relegated to second class — your life was acceptable, but not most important. If you wanted to live a truly important life, you had to be in “ministry” (which was also conceived of very differently then).
Jesus explodes this error.
He doesn’t do this by saying “the things of the world are as important as the things of God.” The teaching of the Bible is not that there are no priorities in life. Seeking the kingdom of God is the most important thing.
But the revolutionary teaching of Jesus and the Bible is that you don’t have to be a pastor or missionary or full-time Christian worker to do this.
Wherever you are, whatever your job, you can and must seek the kingdom of God first.
That’s the doctrine of vocation. The doctrine of vocation does not say that you don’t have to seek the kingdom of God first. Rather, it says that this life is open and available to everyone, regardless of your job or station in life. All of us, no matter where we are or what we do for a living, are equally able to seek the kingdom of God and put it first.
As Paul said, “if then you have been raised with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is” (Colossians 3:1ff.) And as he shows through the rest of the chapter, we do this not by retreating from the world to live like monks, but by obeying Jesus’ teaching in all areas of life.
You don’t have to leave the world or be a pastor to obey Jesus’ teaching. You just need to do all things for his glory and the good of others in all areas of life, and you can do this even if you have no control at all over your job (Colossians 3:22-25).
That’s the revolutionary doctrine of vocation. Not that the things of this world are as important as the things of God, but that you can seek the things of God from any station and calling in this world. This, then, transfigures all of life with the presence of God.