Last Week, while reading 81% of Catholics Believe Their Work is a Calling From God on Shrinking the Camel, I started thinking that Christians were finally starting to get that their vocation is a calling from God.
I was quickly disappointed as I kept reading the post because it pointed out that the survey was largely comprised of those working in the church or in a charity.
I’d already started my blog post Are You Recommended By God? when I read this article, so the idea that being a Christian entrepreneur is a vocational calling was fresh on my mind. There is an entire section in my post about it. In fact, it is one of the foundational pillars of the post.
I commented on the article and went back to finish my post. It was then that I received an email notification that a response to my comment had been made. The response challenged the notion that there have always been vocational callings. It even suggested that perhaps Christ had been forced to be a carpenter.
Here’s the comment I made on the article from Shrinking the Camel …
I wonder why so many Christians feel like they check their Christianity at the door when they head off to work. Do you think it is that they do not believe God has a place in their work life?
Perhaps it is because they are not in the career in which God called them? It is interesting that most of us forget that before their ministries began Christ was called to be a carpenter, Peter was called to be a fisherman, and Paul was called to be a tent maker.
Although they were later called into full-time ministry as their vocation, most of us are not. Yes, we are all called to be ambassadors of Christ, but we are also called to our vocations.
I wonder why so many do not realize their calling or choose not to follow it?
What do you think?
The author, Bradley J. Moore, responded with the following …
Brad (great name, btw), I think you are on to something with that idea of “calling.” I intend to write something on that sometime, as it has been on my mind for a while. We happen to live in a society where, for the most part, we have the freedom to choose our vocation as opposed to just doing whatever we were born into (for better or worse). I don’t think Peter or Jesus got to choose their jobs – they just did what their dads did, and their dads before them, etc. For all we know, the fishermen HATED their work, which is why they rushed off so quickly to follow Jesus that day. Much more exciting prospects to be had there, right?
This idea of “calling” seems to be a fairly recent phenomenon, and therefore creates a new set of problems/opportunities when we look at it through a Christian lens. There are too many choices, maybe. Or, perhaps we don’t get the good breaks in life. Or, we are not aggressive enough in pursuing what we want. Or, we get our dream job and we hate it…. Or, we find it and we love it and live out a sense of God’s purpose for our work lives.
Good thoughts, worth a lot more discussion!
Worthy of more discussion indeed. It definitely made me think about whether I was correct in my understanding of vocational callings.
Is Vocational Calling a New Idea?
At first, I thought this comment was a bit ridiculous. After having a week to think about it, I wonder if it really is though. I did not grow up in a Christian home, but luckily for me, my parents looked at the church as a convenient babysitter so I was at the church whenever the doors were open. In the 35 years of attending church services since, I can tell you I have never seen anyone walk down the aisle to proclaim that God called them to be an entrepreneur.
We do tend to get excited and praise someone that makes a decision to go into full-time ministry, don’t we? There are often announcements in the church bulletin, special fellowships, or other recognition. With all the attention, you would be led to believe that only this type of calling was special. Anything else is for lesser Christians.
It’s not something on which the church has put much focus historically. The closest the church ever seemed to come to recognizing a non-ministry calling was graduation or retirement ceremonies. In recent years, we have started looking at vocational callings and recognizing God’s hand at work.
This doesn’t mean that God has not called us to our vocations from the very beginning, but there is little room to argue that it is not a new idea as it relates to the modern church.
Is It Still a Vocational Calling if You Have no Choice?
This is an interesting question. Many entrepreneurs are groomed to take over the family business from the moment they are born. Casting off this mantle involves disrupting many family dynamics so few ever do. Bradley rightly points out that today (in the United States) we have a plethora of choices from which to choose our vocation. This has made it easier for the groomed son or daughter to break away from the family business, but it’s still difficult.
Compared with first century Christians, it’s the proverbial walk in the park. There were very few choices but to follow in the footsteps of your father. It is likely that Jesus and Peter followed in the steps of their family and became a carpenter and fisherman because there was no other choice. They may very well have hated their vocation.
We don’t know much about Christ’s life between the periods of his birth and the start of His ministry, but we do know that He was scorned by those in His hometown when He went back. Also, His family did not show up in force until the end of His ministry. Perhaps this was the lingering effect of breaking ties with the family business? It must certainly have been taboo for that time.
Jeremiah’s vocational calling came before he was conceived. Adam wasn’t given a choice of vocations when God put him in the Garden of Eden. Joseph had no choice when appointed as administrator for Potiphar or Pharaoh. Early Christian slaves had no choice for their vocation. Well, they did have one choice – not to do their vocation.
We have that same choice today, but without the harsh consequences or likely death that would befall these people. In addition, we have a plethora of choices available to us for our vocation. There is a difference between a choice and a calling though. A calling is not something we can control. It is not something we can choose. Our only choice is to follow it or not.