What is Vocation?

Stephen Nichols booklet What Is Vocation? (Basics of the Faith) is a helpful and quick read on the subject. It helps to remind us that, whatever our work is (ministry work, marketplace work, or working in the home), it is a calling from God and therefore is immensely meaningful when done for the glory of God.

Another helpful read on the doctrine of vocation is Gene Veith’s excellent book God at Work: Your Christian Vocation in All of Life.

And, if you haven’t made the connection already, it’s worth noting: everything that I write on productivity is really a fleshing out of the doctrine of vocation on the practical side.

  • don gale

    Question on “calling”. I’ve never been able to nail down what that means. I’m an accountant. Am I “called” to be an accountant because God has orchestrated my life towards this situation? Or am I “called” because I feel some sort of pull or conviction to be an accountant (which, for the record, I don’t)? Most people I know talk about calling in the latter sense, but I’m more inclined to believe the former. And, in the case of the former, how do you know when it’s time to explore other opportunities? The Bible says to stay where God has placed you (1 cor 7:20). Maybe that’s taking that verse out of context. Does Veith cover these questions?

  • Galephico

    Hi Matt,
    Would you recommend this book to have a christian view of work ?
    I’m wondering which book you would recommend.
    Maybe an idea of post ?
    Thanks in advance,

  • Galephico

    For example, is Counsels to Christian Workers a good start ?

  • Matt

    Don: To say that something is a calling is to say that it is a role that is ordained and established by God, and that God himself works in and through us in that role. In medieval times, it was thought that only church work could be considered a calling. Luther and the Reformers recaptured the biblical doctrine of vocation, and argued that _all_ of our work (and roles) in life is a calling.

    So the emphasis is not on the subjective (“I feel called to be an accountant”). Rather, the role of accountant is a God-ordained role, and when you do your accounting, God himself is serving through you. We can say that there is a subjective dimension of calling in terms of finding what you are personally shaped for and designed to do. But whether or not a person feels that they have found their calling in that sense, all work (that is ethical) is a calling in the objective sense.

    One way to know when it is time to explore other opportunities is if your current role does not match what you are good at and what you are passionate about doing. As Veith puts it: “The doctrine of vocation encourages attention to each individual’s uniqueness, talents, and personality. These are valued as gifts of God, who creates and equips each person in a different way for the calling He has in mind for that person’s life. The doctrine of vocation undermines conformity, recognizes the unique value of every person, and celebrates human differences; but it sets these individuals into a community with other individuals, avoiding the privatizing, self-centered narcissism of secular individualism.”

    I think the point of 1 Cor 7:20 is to give us our default pattern. Paul’s point is: “when you become a Christian, don’t think you have to leave what you are doing in life in order to serve God. You can serve God where you are at, and the gospel does not mandate that you change your job or vocation or role (unless it is unethical, of course).” But he’s not seeking to create static stations in life. If we think a different role would be a better fit, then it’s a good thing to consider something else.

    You see this in the text when Paul writes: “Each one should remain in the condition in which he was called. Were you a slave when called? Do not be concerned about it. But if you can gain your freedom, avail yourself of the opportunity.” In other words, becoming a Christian doesn’t mean you need to figure out a way to change your role (even, as in this case, if one was a slave). But for sure, if you have the opportunity to make a change and you want to do it, yes go ahead.

  • Matt

    Galephico: Thanks. Good idea. I would recommend this booklet, and also Veith’s book _God at Work: Your Christian Vocation in All of Life_. I hadn’t heard of Counsels to Christian Workers, but I see that it’s by Spurgeon and so looks pretty good.