We have been concentrating on the idea that work is good. No matter what we are doing (with the exception of blatant sin) we can do it as worship toward God. Any type of work can be seen as ultimately valuable in its relation to God. This is because the image of God can shine through us as we work. We can work like God works. We can work in obedience to God’s command toward humanity to work. We can acknowledge our dependence upon God as we work in His creation and with the skills He has given us. And we in community being a model of the Trinity in action. We have established that work can be worship. So with that said, what should we be doing?
If there are many available and good options for us, how do we decide what to specifically to do?
Does God care what type of work we do?
Should we seek God’s guidance in our career and job choices?
What does that guidance look like?
These are important questions today because of our occupational mobility, which is a relatively recent development brought by the Industrial revolution. Historically occupations were not a matter of personal decisions. You did what your father did before you. The sons of carpenters were carpenters. The sons of farmers were farmers. Boys went into the family business. It was not just an expectation. It was merely a fact. Today some people experience pressure from their parents to choose the same line of work that they have chosen. Fathers still want and encourage their sons to take over the family business. This is not what I’m talking about. In previous times there really were not options for occupations. It was occupationally static for all males. I have been intentionally sexist in my description because there were even fewer choices for women.
Some rare moments the community would call on a specifically gifted individual into a different line of service. Every once and a awhile a father would arrange special training for a son in a different occupation. Some people would be chosen by the elders to go into religion. But these were still not matters of personal decisions. The individual never had to wrestle with the question of what should I do.
Scripture is written in this context of static occupations. Farmers remained farmers and slaves typically remained slaves. Soldiers were soldiers. Tax collectors stayed as tax collectors. The best Christian theological development on work can be seen in the idea of vocation. However; most of the thinking was initiated John Calvin and finalized while Europe was in the feudal system. The feudal system is still a context of basically static occupations. Allow me to summarize traditional Christian medieval thinking on work. A omnipotent and omniscient God has divinely ordered the entire world down to the minutia of detail. This order includes your station in His created realm. Where God has placed you is exactly where God wants you. To question your occupation is to question the very plan of God. Things have changed.
So what guidance can we find from God for the occupational context in which we find ourselves?
Every Christian’s General Calling
Every part of every Christian’s life is challenged by the basics of their faith. Every Christian’s occupation must also come under the influence of their Christianity. You must work as a Christian should work. An in-depth look at what it means to be a Christian is a grand topic that is outside of this particular endeavor. For the interest of time (with the hope that I’m not being too cliché) I will summarize the Christian faith by the Great Commandment and the Great Commission.
Matthew 22:37-39 (HCSB)
37 He said to him, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. 38 This is the greatest and most important command. 39 The second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself.
Everything we do must fall within the parameters of a healthy worshipful loving relationship with God. And nothing we do should interfere with our love of others.
What are some jobs that might get in the way of you loving God? Why?
What some jobs that might get in the way of you loving others? How?
Have you ever had a job that seemed to interfere with your Christian walk?
Matthew 28:18-20 (HCSB)
18 Then Jesus came near and said to them, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. 19 Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe everything I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
Nothing we do should interfere with our assigned task from Jesus of making disciples. We should also look for an occupation that actually aids in completing this task.
Can you think of some ways a job that could help you fulfill the Great Commission?
Can you think of some ways a job could interfere with you fulfilling the Great Commission?
Have you ever rationalized a job to make it fit into your Christian faith when it was actually interfering with your fulfillment of the Great Commandment or the Great Commission?
Next we are going to look at some specific times God spoke to people about their work. Maybe seeing how God revealed to them what they were supposed to do can be informative for us in figuring out what we ought to do.