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Consider Your Place in Life
A Brief Look at the Confession of Sins and Vocation
The Small Catechism
(view in PDF
) uses specifics in teaching the Christian to confess. After a brief introduction to confession and a general discussion of sin, it asks "Which are these [sins we know and feel in our hearts]?"
The answer begins by directing us to our vocation, our calling: "Consider your place in life according to the Ten Commandments: Are you a father, mother, son, daughter, husband, wife, or worker?" When we stand before the Law's mirror, looking for sins to confess, we don't need to invent or speculate. We measure ourselves against God's Word, beginning with comparing who God has called us to be with how we've fulfilled that calling.
continues, "Have you been disobedient, unfaithful, or lazy? Have you been hot-tempered, rude, or quarrelsome? Have you hurt someone by your words or deeds? Have you stolen, been negligent, wasted anything, or done any harm?" By tying the Commandments to vocation, we receive specific instructions in our search.
Depending upon our "place in life," we focus the self-examination. Have I been …
- a hot-tempered father, mother, or employer?
- a rude son, daughter, or salesclerk?
- a quarrelsome husband, wife, or co-worker?
Since the last time I brought my sins before my gracious God to receive His full pardon, have I …
- hurt my children by breaking my word, my parents by showing disrespect, my friend by punching him in the nose, or my employer by my treatment of our customers?
- stolen cash from my parents, a paycheck from my employer, or an answer from a fellow student?
- neglected the chores my parents assigned, my marriage, or my health and the body which is a temple of the Holy Spirit?
- wasted natural resources, company property, the time of others, or any of the time, talents, and treasure which God has entrusted to my stewardship?
- harmed myself, my family, my employer or employees, my own reputation or my neighbor's good name, or anyone or anything else for which I am in any way responsible?
- made myself, my career, my wealth, my family, my reputation, or anything else into my god?
- worried overmuch about my "place in life" rather than trusting God to work all things for good?
- kept myself or my family out of God's Word, away from His house, and apart from His forgiveness?
- dishonored those under whose authority God has placed me?
- hated, carried a grudge, or wished ill upon family members, friends, co-workers, employer, customers, or even any who wish ill upon me?
- taken anything that does not rightly belong to me, squandered the wealth of others, or done neglected to aid my neighbor in the keeping of his own property?
- by mouth, by pen, or by keyboard elevated my own status or demeaned that of others through deceit, or gossip, whether by direct statement or insinuation, whether by telling a lie or through an unnecessary truth?
- so desired a vocation, position, reputation, relationship, or possession which God has not given me that I neglect being thankful for all that I am and have and whine, mope, complain, or make excuses about my lot in life, resent others for having what I do not, or desire and scheme to acquire that which neither hard work nor special blessing from God will give me?
Having so considered my "place in life according to the Ten Commandments," I see that I am truly guilty of some very specific sins. I am not generally
lazy, rude, dishonest, or violent: I discover specific, shameful examples
in thought, word, and deed.
These sins I bring to God — if possible, through a confessor with whom He has blessed me. As God moves me to confess them, so He also assures me that they are forgiven. I need not labor to pay my debt; in Christ, the debt is cancelled. I rediscover Jesus who came, yes, as a Perfect Example, but even more, as a Perfect Substitute. The Gospel points me not to do the deeds which Christ did but to benefit from the deeds already done.
He remained faithful to His
vocation, perfectly fulfilling the will of His Father; now He frees me to be faithful to my
vocation. Perhaps Philippians 2:1-11 captures better than any other place in Scripture both Christ's vocational fidelity on my behalf and the direction He offers me in being faithful to my calling:
So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. [ESV]
As I daily die to sin and rise in Christ as Confession and Absolution return me to the Font, so I also daily set my feet upon my vocational path. Christ's forgiveness frees me to be a Christian, to work and play, to love and be loved, to give of myself and to receive the gifts of others. I am freed from wanting to be like others and am instead made Christ-like.
President Franklin Roosevelt espoused
(and Norman Rockwell later painted
) "four freedoms" in a speech to Congress in 1941. While noble ideas, it's only as a forgiven and restored Christian that I can truly possess and properly exercise these freedoms within the boundaries of my vocation.
In Christ, God gives me "freedom of speech," that I might confess His name. He gives me "freedom of worship," that I might "call upon Him in every trouble, pray, praise, and give thanks (Small Catechism
, 2nd Commandment). He grants me "freedom from want," for in Him I find true contentment: "I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. (Phil 4:2)." I stride through life boldly, for in Him I have "freedom from fear," since His "perfect love casts out fear. (1 John 4:18)."