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We start with the recognition that all we have—our very being, our time, our talents, our daily blessings—is given to us by the manifold grace of God.

Resources: Papers and Essays

Stewardship and Vocation

By Mark Vitalis Hoffman

With a title of “Stewardship and Vocation,” I have managed to say in one breath two words that you usually only hear in church. What’s more, they are words you usually don’t want to hear at all! Stewardship and vocation have the bad reputation of simply being ‘spiritual’ ways of talking about your money and your job. 

That is an unfair characterization, however, of terms that have an important role in our Scripture and our Christian history as ways of talking about who we are and what we do. In biblical usage, a steward is the person appointed by the owner to be in charge of a household or business. It is a position of honor, but it is also a position of service and responsibility. It is particularly appropriate as one way of defining our relationship to God.

1 Peter 4.10 says, “As good stewards of the manifold grace of God, serve one another with whatever gift each of you has received.” We start with the recognition that all we have—our very being, our time, our talents, our daily blessings—is given to us by the “manifold grace of God.” To use all these things in service to others is part of what it means to practice our vocation. Stewardship, therefore, is more than money, and vocation is more than a job.

Walter Wink has it correct when he says that for Christians our vocation is “to do what God requires in the society, workplace and home where one finds oneself. Our vocation is more a life lived than a job performed.” There is a sense of fulfilling a requirement, something we have to do to be ourselves.

The word “vocation” (from the Latin) or “calling” (from the Greek) originally was used to refer to the summons one received to go to a court. It was a call to give an account of yourself, to provide a testimony or witness. This connotation of the word indicates the gravity with which we should consider our vocation. The other way vocation was mainly used, however, was as an invitation to a feast. We see, therefore, what a great word vocation is to talk about the feast of God’s goodness set before us and our accountability to use it in love and service.

 “Stewardship and Vocation.” What a wonderful way for us to experience life shaped by grace and guided by love!

The Rev. Mark Hoffman, an ELCA pastor, is  Assistant Professor of Biblical Studies at the Lutheran Theological Seminary at Gettysburg (PA).