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What Is Vocation?

A kindergartner works on an assignment entitled “What I want to be when I grow up.”

A recent graduate steps out on her own for the first time, wondering what’s next.

A new parent re-evaluates his employment situation.

A retiree explores how to spend her days.

Have you ever found yourself in situations like these, wondering what you should be doing or how you should be living? These kinds of questions can follow us throughout the various seasons of life. We pray, “God, what am I supposed to do here? Just tell me what to do and how to live.”

Definition of Vocation

Jesus gives us a framework for what we’re supposed to do. He tells us the greatest commandment is to love God, with the second like it: to love our neighbor (Matthew 22:35–40). One way we can love God is by doing what He commands (1 John 5:3). This series of articles looks at what it means to follow Jesus’ command to love our neighbor and how we can actually do this in the various parts of our life.

Considering how we can love our neighbor is the basis for the term vocation. Vocation, or calling, is doing the work God has put in front of us to do for the benefit of our neighbor in every station and place we find ourselves throughout our lives.

The apostle Paul gives us a clear starting point as we consider our vocations. He writes in his letter to the Ephesians:

For it is by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. (Ephesians 2:8-10).

Since we know it is by the grace of God we have been saved, we are freed from committing our lives to doing good to win God’s favor. We already have God’s favor because of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. Our salvation is secure through faith in Christ. With this as our foundation, we can focus our attention on our purpose in this world.

How to Live Out My Vocation 

What have we been put here to do?

Paul says in verse 10 that we are God’s workmanship, put here to carry out the good works that God has prepared beforehand for us to do. We don’t need to do good works to earn God’s favor. Instead, we do them for our neighbor, the people around us.

Cue vocation.

Martin Luther is famously quoted as saying, “God does not need our good works but our neighbors do.” Luther’s quote about our neighbors needing to be loved and served is carried out through your various vocations, depending on where you find yourself.


Looking to learn more about vocation? The latest edition of Lutheran Life magazine has even more articles about discovering your vocations wherever God has placed you.

Learn about my vocations

Written by

Amy Bird

Amy Bird is a child of God and wife of Aaron. She holds an MA in systematic theology from Concordia Seminary, St. Louis and is continually amazed at how precisely God's Word speaks into life today.

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