“He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” Micah 6:8
I was taught that there is a difference between work and vocation. Work is toil. Sweat. Weary hands and bleary eyes. Work is drudgery. But vocation, ah, that’s something else entirely. A vocation is honor. Fulfillment. Purpose. Work is necessary for putting food on the table and– well, making sure there’s a table to put food on. But vocation implies a higher calling. It is that which we were made for. Our destiny.
At least that’s the modern American Protestant mindset. It was this worldview that originally got me interested in education. How amazing it would be to shape the minds of future presidents, evangelists, and CEOs. That could be God’s purpose for me.
I didn’t always think that, though. At one time I thought that “when I grew up” all I wanted was a job that would keep me active and provide for my material needs. Construction would do it, as far as I was concerned. But those I was close to explicitly or implicitly communicated their hopes that I would do something remarkable with my life. That I would positively influence the lives of others. Eventually, that became what I wanted too.
Now that I am “grown up,” and looking for work, a part of me wonders if my original mindset was actually more healthy. That I don’t need a suit to do something worthwhile. That all I really need is a job I can perform well and provides for my needs. Maybe I chose the wrong path for my life.
But of course, this is not an either-or problem. It is not a question of vocation vs. job. If I am living in obedience to God’s will, there is no “wrong” job for me because God is sovereign and he uses every aspect, every season of my life to accomplish his will. I would love to be a college professor, and I believe that God can use me in that role one day. But that doesn’t mean that any of the jobs I hold before that time are any less his purpose for my life. My vocation is a follower of Christ and a fisher of men, and that will never change, whether I am employed as a pastor or a garbage collector. If I do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly with God, I have led a life that is pleasing to God.