Conclusions about Calling

Article / Produced by TOW Project

Got the Job, But Not the Dream. Now What? (Click Here to Read)

How do you plug your heart and soul into a job that you are just not into, one that is so far removed from what you imagined for yourself, clearly under-utilizing your gifts and capabilities?

We take seriously God’s calling and guiding of people to various kinds of ordinary work. In doing so, we are trying to correct the long-standing tendency to regard ordinary work as unimportant to God and unworthy of his calling. But it would be equally wrong to elevate the importance of your job or profession to a position of idolatry. Getting the right job does not bring salvation, or even happiness. Moreover, the true aim of work for the Christian is to serve the common good, not to advance his or her own interests. Over a lifetime, serving the common good comes far more from doing each day’s work to the best of your ability in Christ, than it does from finding the best job for yourself.

For further exploration

Historical-Theological Perspective

For an historical-theological perspective on vocation at greater length than is possible in this article, see Vocation in Historical-Theological Perspective, by Gordon Preece.

The legitimacy of various professions

Banks, Robert. God the Worker: Journeys into the Mind, Heart and Imagination of God. Sutherland, N.S.W.: Albatross Books, 1992.

Pope John Paul II. On Human Work (Laborem Exercens). Vatican Translation. Boston: Pauline Books & Media, 1981, especially chapters 6, 9, 10, 21 and 22.

Richardson, Alan. The Biblical Doctrine of Work. London: SCM Press LTD, 1952, especially chapters “Creative Craftsmanship and Skill,” “Work as Divine Ordinance for Man,” and “‘Vocation’ in the New Testament.” Richardson generally takes a dimmer view of ordinary work than this Note does, and his biblical approach reflects a 1940-50s sensibility that seems dated today. However, he compiled an excellent collection of work-related scripture, given the book’s brevity, and his chapters discuss many of the most important faith-work topics. Also, like the Theology of Work Project, he used a process designed to invite wide participation and response, which is incorporated in the published draft. We do not necessarily agree with his conclusions or biblical views, but we find his book highly thought-provoking.

Stevens, R. Paul. Doing God's Business: Meaning and Motivation for the Marketplace. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2006, especially chapters 1 and 2.

Career guidance and discerning gifts

Banks, Robert. Faith Goes to Work. Eugene, OR: Wipf & Stock, 1999.

Mackenzie, Alistair, Wayne Kirkland and Annette Dunham. Soul Purpose. Christ Church, NZ: NavPress, 2004.

Schuurman, Douglas J. Vocation: Discerning Our Calling in Life.  Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2004.

Schuster, John P. Answering Your Call: A Guide for Living Your Deepest Purpose. San Francisco: Berrett-Koehler Publishers, 2002.

Calling in Christian thought and practice

Guinness, Os. The Call: Finding and Fulfilling the Central Purpose of Your Life. London: Word Publishing, 1998.

Hardy, Lee. The Fabric of This World: Inquiries into Calling, Career Choice, and the Design of Human Work. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1990.

Placher, Williams C., ed. Callings: Twenty Centuries of Christian Wisdom on Vocation. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2005.

Preece, Gordon R. The Viability of the Vocation Tradition in Trinitarian, Credal and Reformed Perspective: The Threefold Call. Lewiston, NY: Edwin Mellen Press, 1998.

Stevens, R. Paul. The Other Six Days: Vocation, Work, and Ministry in Biblical Perspective. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2000.

Volf, Miroslav. Work in the Spirit: Toward a Theology of Work. Eugene, OR: Wipf & Stock, 2001.