The Right Boots for Your Vocation & Loving Your Neighbors
When I first began my career as a credit union marketer, I told myself I would be there five years tops before moving onto bigger and better things. Having never been exposed to the credit union industry prior to that time, I thought it was just a “bank job” where I would be responsible for helping put endless numbers of consumers into high-rate credit cards and perpetuating cycles of endless debt to the world.
I really wanted something mission focused that aimed to help build my community and those that reside within it.
Sixteen years later, I am happy to say I was dead wrong on the timeframe and in the purpose of credit unions. Yes, there are many well intentioned banks that break the stereotype just as there are many credit unions that meet the same stereotype. Yet, by and large, there is a significant difference in how banks and credit unions operate and how they go about achieving their purposes.
All that said, this is not a post about credit unions or banking. It’s about vocations and community. It’s about purpose and serving others. It’s about building up others as opposed to promoting self-destruction.
My Dad’s Work Boot and His Vocation
As a child, I have a very vivid memory of my father coming home from a long day of working on a factory floor. He sat in his chair at the kitchen table and methodically undid the laces of his boots before prying his calloused and sore feet from the black, steel-toed boots that had choked him from the ankle down over the course of many hours. Yes, his feet hurt, but they protected him from debris and any machine parts that might fall during the course of his maintenance work.
I was in awe. Those boots were boots of authority and strength in my mind. My dad worked in an environment where he needed heavy duty boots where manual labor and blue-collar strength reigned. While in those boots, he repaired machines, conversed with co-workers and did his part to keep production flowing.
Your Boots. Your Vocation. Your Purpose.
I’ve had this post brewing for some time, but simply couldn’t get the whole unity of the message to come together until this past weekend while attending a concert. One of the performers mentioned a well-known quote that’s commonly attributed to Martin Luther.
The Christian shoemaker does his Christian duty not by putting little crosses on the shoes, but by making good shoes, because God is interested in good craftsmanship.” (source: Luther Seminary).
Hearing it said aloud started putting things into perspective. That remains true even if Martin Luther never really said it. That’s right, the “little crosses on the shoes” quote may not really be a Luther Quote. That’s okay. It happens to Einstein all the time.
This quote, however, is undoubtedly Luther’s…
The prince should think: Christ has served me and made everything to follow him; therefore, I should also serve my neighbor, protect him and everything that belongs to him. That is why God has given me this office, and I have it that I might serve him. That would be a good prince and ruler. When a prince sees his neighbor oppressed, he should think: That concerns me! I must protect and shield my neighbor. … The same is true for shoemaker, tailor, scribe, or reader. If he is a Christian tailor, he will say: I make these clothes because God has bidden me do so, so that I can earn a living, so that I can help and serve my neighbor. When a Christian does not serve the other, God is not present; that is not Christian living (source: Luther Seminary).
There is a nice distinction there. In the first quote, we are led to understand that It is less important to wear Christianity as a badge than it is to do so with full intentionality and quality. In the latter quote, we can take away the reality that what we do is less important than why we do it and who we serve in so doing.
Wearing the Right Boots for Serving God
Whether your boots have little crosses on them or not, know your purpose for wearing them. My dad wore steel toed work boots to protect his feet and navigate the blue collar floor. I wear dress shoes so I can be present in an office environment. Firefighters, ranchers, police officers, even clowns… they all have the right footwear for their jobs.
And while we wear them to perform the duties of our professions, we are wise to more fully consider why we do those duties. It’s not to sell more widgets or even for financial gain. If that is the case, we really are only serving ourselves rather than God. And God isn’t advocating those acts. You see, we all too often pray to have easier paths though we should be praying for stronger shoes (h/t to James Macdonald),
As Gene Edward Veith, Ph.D. observes… “The purpose of every vocation is to love and serve our neighbours. God is always calling us to love Him and to love our neighbour as ourselves.” (Canadian Lutheran Online).
How do Your Boots Serve Your Neighbor?
Let’s revisit the second quote – the one where we have confidence in it being from Martin Luther – where it says: “If he is a Christian tailor, he will say: I make these clothes because God has bidden me do so, so that I can earn a living, so that I can help and serve my neighbor.”
This sentiment explains precisely why my “five-year plan” was abandoned. Yes, I needed an income and yes, I sought job security. But those things could have been obtained in other careers and with other employers. What I eventually came to understand is there is a genuine value in and ability to be mission-focused in my role as a credit union marketer.
Yes, I have honed my craft with much pride and yes, craftsmanship is important. However, the finest craftsman’s skills are all for naught if they are not being used for serving others and building up your neighbors. That’s when God is our greatest advocate!
While my job has considerably less one-on-one contact with those we serve, I put in much effort toward setting up the opportunity for those who do. I help build up and equip the people who will be the linchpin in steering others toward better money skills and management.
They are both the feet on the ground. And it’s a pleasure to help them lace up the boots they’ll wear in serving my friends, family and neighbors.
And – even though I am no pastor, nor am I sharing the gospel with everyone I meet – I am living out the commandment to love thy neighbor. Together, we build each other up.
As we do that, we cultivate a more empowered and stronger community. God can and will use a community like that. Exactly how and when, I have no idea. But in doing as commanded, in wearing the right boots for the job and loving our neighbors, we place full trust and faith in God.
And that is what God has bidden us to do.
- finding Your Life Meaning in Jeff Goins’ the Art of Work (1Glories)
- ‘Little Crosses On The Shoes’ (Or What Luther DIDN’T Say About Vocation) by Jeffrey Radt at A Luther Layman
About Chad Gramling
Chad Gramling makes his home in Indiana with his wife and three daughters. He's the founder and primary blogger at 1Glories, a vision cast onto his heart and detailed in Listen Up Kids: Foolish Dreams, Syncing with God & Running to Win.