Luther’s theology of vocation is strongly shaped by his disaffection from the monastic ideal. What Luther’s view of vocation tries to overcome is the dichotomy of serving our neighbor versus serving God (a dichotomy that Aquinas seems to have borrowed from the Greeks). That is, Luther tries to overcome the idea that serving the neighbor has nothing to do with God at all. For Luther, stations in life are a kind of social roles. They are structures in human life and institutions. Those stations have their duties attached to them. For example, being a parent could be a life station, so I would have the duty to take care of my children. By taking care of my children, I also love God.
Luther arrives at his conclusion through his discussion of the monastic ideal. For him, the main problem monastic life has is that it leads people to believe that a person’s complete separation from society constitutes an active means to love the other –that is, by embracing a monastic lifestyle a person both loves God and loves the neighbor. Luther questions this assumption and argues that such a position is rooted in self-righteousness. For Luther the monastic ideal seems to be rooted in hierarchy and not in the Christian life. Luther seems to free the notion of vocation from the narrow ecclesiastical exclusivity and put it in a broader sphere of the Christian life: we all are called to actively do both: loving God and our neighbor. What I mean by this is that for Luther vocation is primarily a manifestation of God’s work in the world. As one notes, Luther has a high view of work by equalizing work with the notion of vocation. Although Luther makes a distinction between the Kingdom of Heaven versus the kingdom of earth, he avoids dichotomizing it too much—that is, considering that one dimension is good while the other is bad. Rather, Luther is talking about two different dimensions of the same reality. At the end, the idea of vocation is a calling coming from God to us. As Luther suggests, loving our neighbor comes from God through the creation order: it concerns and applies to the whole humanity and not only to a particular group. In their pursuit of vocation, we all participate in God’s providential care of his creation. This is the religious meaning of vocation.
Now, despite the advantages of Luther’s station-model and the fact such a model is socially constructed, he does not seem aware that life stations are affected by sin. In this respect, if we pursue vocation without paying attention to our neighbor’s sake and the common good, we may encounter a lot of suffering in life. When life stations are affected by sin, then, a person will fail in glorifying God. When a Christian parent, for instance, raises his/her children (a parent’s duty) but fails to lead the child to embrace the good virtues. Besides this, the Christian parent might also fail, from a moral perspective, if he or she overemphasizes his/her duties as a mere societal norm without further consideration of the Christian faith.