Work and the Doctrine of Vocation
The Doctrine of Vocation is one of the least talked about aspects of the Christian Life. We usually talk about “calling” referring to pastors and full-time ministry while other occupations are, in a sense, “permitted.” We have to make a living so God lets us go and get a job. As if God is saying “Oh well, I guess you’ve got to work at a bank. But I don’t like it. Maybe I’ll get you to teach Sunday School or something to make up for the difference.”
Os Guinness in his book, The Call, lays out the history of how Protestants and Catholics both swing between both ends of error. Either we view “sacred” jobs at the top (being especially pleasing to God) and “secular” jobs a few notches down or vice versa. I grew up with the first and though it wasn’t taught explicitly, it is the idea I came away with after 22 years in my home church.
For years I wrestled with the fact that I felt both called to serve God and yet not called to be a full-time minister by profession.
Enter the Doctrine of Vocation.
Our concept of vocational calling (which is redundant as vocation means calling, but as our language has evolved we no longer think of it as such) has become muddied at best. If you’re interested in finding out more I’d recommend this excellent article: The Doctrine of Vocation: How God Hides Himself in Human Work. I would also recommend the Os guinness book mentioned above. Even the most menial work, if ordained by God, is dignified, important, and fulfilling.
I should point out that this idea of vocation goes beyond occupation. It flows into how we interact with our families, our friends, and our communities. We as Christians have a vocational call to love our wives, husbands, children, neighbors… even our enemies. Wherever we find ourselves, there we find our calling.
I’m only beginning to get truly acquainted with this idea. The concept is simple enough, but daily keeping it in mind is a challenge when my upbringing has taught me otherwise.