(Article for publication week of 10-23- AD 2014)
"And a certain centurion's servant, who was dear unto him, was sick , and ready to die.....When Jesus heard these things, he marveled at him, and turned him about, and said unto the people that followed Him, 'I say unto you, I have not found so great faith, no, not in Israel" (Luke 7:1,10).
We come now to consider another practical point from the centurion, who the Lord said was of "great faith." We showed you in the previous two articles that the military is a lawful calling (for a man, not a woman), and that a Christian can serve the Lord and be of "great faith" in any lawful calling. This week, I want to consider from the scriptures, what is a "lawful" calling.
First of all, by a "lawful calling", I mean not any and every profession that may be allowed by the laws of the State, but rather I mean lawful as God has commanded (by explicit command or approbation)in His word. That is, I mean by a lawful calling a trade, occupation or business that is in accord with the moral law of God given in the Ten Commandments. This is the sense of the Westminster Larger Catechism question and answer 141 where we are taught one of the duties required by the eighth commandment is a "lawful calling." It is obvious that if a man is not engaged in a lawful calling, he is likely to try to provide for himself and his dependents by stealing. The procuring of wealth by any unlawful means is a violation of the eighth commandment and amounts to theft.
So, we need to consider what is a lawful calling. We may learn what is a lawful calling first of all by some things specifically commanded by God. For example, we read in Genesis 2, that there was not a "a man to till the ground," and so God created Adam and commanded him to dress and keep the Garden of Eden. So we see that farming is a lawful calling as it was specifically commanded by God. Then in the same chapter of Genesis, God commanded Adam to classify the animal kingdom. God commanded Adam to be a zoologist, that is a scientist. When the Eternal Son of God became Incarnate as the Son of Man, He followed the trade of a carpenter. I think we see here God's blessing on the building trades in a most wonderful manner by having His Son be a carpenter until such time as He should begin His preaching ministry. God has plainly blessed and commanded manual labour in I Thessalonians 4:11. But then the Eternal Son of God, who was made flesh, when He began to be about thirty years of age began His earthly ministry of preaching. Someone has astutely observed that God only had one begotten (eternally) Son, and He made Him a preacher. Thus we see God's high estimation of preaching. Those who have a low view of the gospel ministry are not looking at things as God does, or they would have a high estimation of preaching. These are a few things the scriptures plainly say are lawful by God's specific command.
Then we see some things that we know are lawful by God's approbation. We have noted one in our text we have been studying in Luke 7:1-10, that is the calling of a soldier. Our Lord did not command the centurion to try to get out of the Roman army. John the Baptist told the soldiers who were converted under his preaching, "do violence to no man, neither accuse any falsely; and be content with your wages," but he did not exhort them to get out of the army.
Pursuing a lawful calling is a serious consideration. It is a sin to be idle, for God has plainly said that any who will not work should not eat (II Thessalonians 3:10). I think we can see in the examples we have given that the principles of God's Law require us to pursue a calling that is glorifying unto Him and useful to our fellow man.