How shall we live? What is the good life? What is the value of a person? What is my place in this world? Is God active in this world? These are questions that have been asked in every culture and in every era. From the Hebrew concept of Shalom (wholeness/well-being) to the Greek concept of Eudaimonia (happiness) and even to the American notion that all people have the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, great thinkers have pondered what it means for humans to flourish.
The doctrine of vocation uniquely answers these questions. A certain level of security, prosperity, and freedom are essential components of human flourishing. God provides these components by working through humans in their stations in life such as parents and police (security), farmers and bankers (prosperity), and soldiers and governments (freedom).
And yet there is more for which we humans strive. We are the types of beings whose wonderment drives us to the pursuit of knowledge, justice, and achievement. In short, we desire to be justified. We want to be valued. We want to be right or just. We strive for epic-ness. But no mere human adulation will satisfy. Nor can we justify ourselves before God with our broken lives. God justifies Christians through Christ and then uses them. God adds another component to human flourishing: purpose. He uses Christians in his economy of love to take care of the world. He lifts us from the ordinary to accomplish the extraordinary even as we carry ordinary tasks. For the Christian these stations become callings or vocations.
This can only fully be appreciated if the Christian knows that he or she is free from pleasing God through works. Once the Christian is freed from this burden the whole of the Christian life is reoriented to the free exercise of love towards neighbor. It is the highest calling, the truly good, flourishing, and happy life.
Rev. Dr. Michael Berg is an assistant professor of theology at Wisconsin Lutheran College in Milwaukee, WI where he teaches Apologetics, Introduction to Scripture, Christian Worship, Life and Thought of Martin Luther, History of Christianity, and Pauline Epistles. He is married to Amanda, a teacher at St. Philip’s Lutheran School. Together they have three daughters: Abigail, Noelle, and Sophia. Before moving to Milwaukee, the Bergs spent twelve serving St. John’s Lutheran Church in Wood Lake, MN. Mike is a graduate of Martin Luther College, Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary, The International Academy of Apologetics, Human Rights, and Evangelism, and Biola University. He has written for Logia, Gottesdienst, Preach the Word, and Forward in Christ. He is also a co-host of the podcast Let the Bird Fly.
"Michael Berg has written one of the best books I have ever read on biblical topic of vocation. God calls his people to various vocations according to their stations in life. In their vocations Christians knowingly serve God by serving others (their “neighbor”). As Christians serve others, it is actually God who is serving them and providing for them through vocation. Christians are spiritual empowered to carry out their vocations with the knowledge that they do so not ultimately to gain God’s favor and approval for themselves. This they already have through faith in the saving work and merit of Jesus Christ. Christian vocation is a beautiful teaching of Scripture that empowers Christian life and service. Berg’s book lets this teaching shine in all its biblical splendor." Rev. Curtis Jahn, Northwestern Publishing House
"We all want to flourish. We’ve been striving after it since the Fall. Human history is the attempt of humans trying to flourish apart from and more often in direct contrast to God. Dr. Berg presents a better way in this beautiful book on vocation. Human flourishing truly happens when Christians are what God has made them to be: justified and free. Set free from our need to impress God into loving us, we are now free to love God by loving our neighbor. This is the setting for human flourishing; this is the setting of vocation." Pastor Noah Bater, Prince of Peace Lutheran Church, Thousand Oaks, CA