Christian Vocation: the Big Questions
1: Does my faith change the way I approach my work?
This series of blogs explores the concept of vocation. The word comes from the Latin word vocare, to call. It’s widely used in my field of work (education) to describe a certain set of careers such as education, medicine and care services. People choose to enter these professions because of their skill base, their interests and their desire to be involved directly in caring for fellow humanity. But what does the word ‘vocation’ mean to a Christian? Is it related just to the fields of full time Christian ministry or the caring professions? Or is there much more breadth to the concept of vocation for people of faith?
Question 1: Does my faith change the way I approach my work?
Once we become Christians, we have an extra dynamic to our lives – we are in a relationship with the living God. Our vocation is the call to become holy, just as God is holy. This is clear from both the Old Testament: ‘I am the Lord your God; consecrate yourselves and be holy, because I am holy ... I am the Lord, who brought you up out of Egypt to be your God; therefore be holy, because I am holy’ (Leviticus 11:44-45) and the New Testament: ‘But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do’ (1 Peter 1:15). In acknowledging our purpose here on earth, we also acknowledge the implications of that purpose for all that we do. It’s an ongoing, daily working out of our vocation; to be holy as God is holy, at work, in leisure and in all of our relationships. It’s not just a Sunday special.
Other blogs by Gill Robins
As Christians we believe that we each have a purpose in life by virtue of being created in the image of God (Genesis 1:27) – existence is a gift from God and one which we should use wisely. The Bible makes it clear that work is part of God’s purpose for us - it’s an institution which God designed: ‘The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it’ (Genesis 2:15). We work because God worked, not just at creation, but as an ongoing and constant part of His activity in the world; Jesus made this clear when He said: ‘My Father is always at his work to this very day, and I too am working’ (John 5:17). Whether our work is paid or not, it all fulfils God’s purpose. We aren’t just working because we have to in this world; we are working in preparation for eternity in a perfect, sin-free world. Our work has eternal consequences, as well as outcomes in the here and now.
The Bible is also clear about our responsibility to work in order to live - Timothy reminds us that ‘Anyone who does not provide for their relatives and especially for their own household, has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever’ (1Timothy 5:8). But work is so much more than just a means of meeting need. If, as the Psalmist writes ‘The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands’ (Psalm 19:1) then we are revealing God to those around us through the work which we do, just as God revealed Himself through the work of creation. The very act of work is a witness to the living God with whom we live in relationship. It is the way that God blesses us and invests our work with value way beyond the material or personal.
God also took pleasure in His work – Genesis 1:31 tells us that ‘God saw all that he had made, and it was very good.’ He stopped what He was doing, looked around, and was pleased with what He had done. How often do we do the same, not to validate ourselves, but to take pleasure in the glorywhich our work brings to God? It’s not just about what we do, but how we do it. Writing to the church in Ephesus, the apostle Paul said: ‘Obey them [employers] not only to win their favour when their eye is on you, but as slaves of Christ, doing the will of God from your heart. Serve wholeheartedly, as if you were serving the Lord, not people’ (Ephesians 6:6-7).
We are all familiar with the concept of being salt and light in our workplaces – as The Message puts it: ‘Let me tell you why you are here. You’re here to be salt-seasoning that brings out the God-flavours of this earth. If you lose your saltiness, how will people taste godliness? You’ve lost your usefulness and will end up in the garbage. Here’s another way to put it: You’re here to be light, bringing out the God-colours in the world. God is not a secret to be kept. We’re going public with this, as public as a city on a hill. If I make you light-bearers, you don’t think I’m going to hide you under a bucket, do you? I’m putting you on a light stand. Now that I’ve put you there on a hilltop, on a light stand—shine! Keep open house; be generous with your lives. By opening up to others, you’ll prompt people to open up with God, this generous Father in heaven.’
We often reflect on how to be ‘God-colours’ in the world, how to encourage others (1 Thessalonians 5:11) and how to work in relationships that show evidence of the fruit of God’s Spirit in our lives (Galatians 5:22). But the question of whether my faith changes my approach to my work isn’t only about a witness that allows others to ‘taste godliness’. It goes much deeper; it goes to the core purpose of the reason to work. It’s part of God’s design for eternity, not just as a witness to His redeeming love (bringing blessing to others), but also to fulfil our calling to become holy (being blessed ourselves).
So be blessed and be a blessing, whatever form your work takes.