In the April edition of Ligonier Ministries devotional guide, Tabletalk, Gene Veith has a helpful article on duty and vocation. Here is a sample:
"Duty is one of those words that used to carry great weight but really doesn’t anymore. It is still an important concept in military circles, but elsewhere doing something because it’s your duty has acquired a negative connotation. “You just say you love me because you think it’s your duty.” “They just go to church out of a sense of duty.”
In the nineteenth century, though, calls to duty were inspirational. Just before the sea battle of Trafalgar, Admiral Nelson sent up signal flags that sent this message to the fleet: “England expects that every man will do his duty.” The words electrified not just the sailors, inspiring them to victory over Napoleon, but the English people, who turned the line into a national slogan. William Wordsworth was a Romantic poet with a revolutionary impact, but he wrote an emotional celebration of the concept in his great poem “Ode to Duty.”
"A duty is an obligation related to a position, office, or station. In Christian terms, duties are the responsibilities that come from a person’s vocations."
"We have vocations in the family, the workplace, the nation, and the church. That means that we also have duties in each of these estates. Most people still feel some sense of duty in these areas, however vaguely thought through, though the Bible ramps up these duties considerably and charges them with spiritual significance."
The doctrine of vocation is both simple and profound. If you haven't read much on the topic I strongly suggest reading Veith's book, God at Work. Click here to read the rest of the article on duty.
Finally, this reminds me one of the more soul-searching passages from the New Testament. In Luke 17:7-10 we are likened to servants doing our duty. But more than that we are likened to useless, worthless, unprofitable servants whom God uses to achieve His purposes. Put differently, if the Kingdom of God were a business, then God would be like a business owner who operates at a loss because he chooses to use unprofitable servants like us to do his bidding. Talk about a blow to one's ego.
"So you also, when you have done all that you were commanded, say, 'We are unworthy servants; we have only done what was our duty.'" Luke 17:10