Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Calling & Vocation

The Theology of Work project produced an overview on calling & vocation.

What do Christians mean when they talk about calling and vocation? This article states that we usually mean, "Is God calling me to a particular job, profession or type of work?" This is an important question because all of our life belongs to God. I am rereading Leland Ryken's excellent book, Redeeming the Time: A Christian Approach to Work and Leisure. In this book, Ryken states that our work, leisure, and play are all important to God. All of our life must be lived in his presence.

This article does an excellent job in giving an overview of calling and Vocation. It discusses the following topics

  • how to discern God's calling or guidance in the area of work
  • the community nature of calling
  • the calling to church vs. non-church work
  • callings to the creative and redemptive work of God beyond the paid workplace
  • the importance of how you work at whatever job you have, and
  • the ultimate freedom that Christians enjoy in their work

What does the Bible have to say about these topics? The authors note, "In the Bible, the word 'call' is used most often to refer to God's initiative to bring people to Christ and to participate in his redemptive work in the world." In other words, the primary call is to become a Christian. In our calling as a Christian, "our work must be an integral part of our participation in Christ himself." All of our lives belong to God and we are to live for his glory.

The authors believes that God created people to work. God is the supreme worker. He placed Adam in the garden to work. There are many passages in the Bible that commands us to work. For example, "six days you shall labor and do all your work."

God's calling is broader than our work. The authors state that work should not be "limited to paid work." The authors offer the following examples of unpaid work: "The work God leads us to may be unpaid work, such as raising children or caring for a disabled family member or tutoring students after school." Ryken states in his book that calls us even in our leisure. I like this point made by the authors: "God probably doesn't call many of us to jobs that would prevent us from also serving others through unpaid work." For example, I went into library work because I believed it would allow me time for study and family life.

The next point the authors make was outstanding. "Even if you have a paid job, the most important work God calls you to may be outside your job. Your job may meet your need for money--which itself fulfills part of God's command to work--but it may not fulfill all the other purposes God has for your work." For example, you might have a talent for writing, acting, music, or other kinds of work. It might not be your job, but God has gifted you in this area. 

Another point made by the authors is that we should not "let work dominate the other elements of life." WE should not let work crowd out family life, leisure, rest, and worship.

The authors addresses several other questions. Does God call us to a particular work? How does God call us? The article lists three ways to discern our calling: needs of the world, our skills and gifts, and our desires. I would add opportunity. These are excellent ways to discern our callings. It is important to seek to discern our callings in a community of faith. The authors believe that call us to both church work and non-church work. They do not see these as different callings.

The article asks an important question at the end of the article: "If God leads or guides people to their work, could it ever be legitimate to change jobs?" Martin Luther argued against changing jobs in the 16th century. Their world was vastly different from ours. John Calvin allowed for changing job, but he saw it as a temptation to the station God called us. The authors note, "Miroslav Volf has written that since the factors by which God guides people to work may change over the course of a working life, God may indeed guide people to change their work." It is legitimate to change jobs, but often people change jobs because they get itchy feet or experience difficulties in the job. So, I think we should think hard and long before changing jobs.

This article is an excellent overview of vocation and calling. On the website, there is a short video about calling and vocation. It is worth watching.

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