Just a Job or a Calling?
How do you know which career is for you?
There are many things to consider: your aptitude, your passion, the expected level of compensation, etc. A survey says 65% of working Americans are satisfied with their jobs while only 20% are passionate about their jobs (Appollos Technica). You wonder what “satisfied” means—because it pays the bills? It seems there are two approaches to think about our jobs.
The first is the ideal approach. This is what we hear in most commencement speeches: “Follow your heart! Do not give up on your passion no matter how hard it is and how low the pay (at least initially)!” We know why this is the more prominent advice on choosing a career. These speakers are highly successful people, who stuck with their passion and made it. But the cruel reality is that, behind every success story, there are thousands of people, who stuck with their passion and found themselves in economic hardships.
Another approach is the practical approach. It is not very popular in the commencement speech circuit. Its most famous proponent is Mike Rowe, the host of “Dirty Jobs” and “Somebody's Gotta Do It.” His advice on choosing a career? “Never follow your passion but always bring it with you!” Millions of college and post-college graduates compete for the narrow field of jobs that are known as “good careers” while the employers are not able to fill millions of jobs because nobody wants to do them and has the skills for them (because these jobs are not glamorous).
Mike Rowe is not telling people to get any kind of job as long as it pays the bills. He is a firm believer in “the dignity of labor.” But wherein lies the “dignity” in “dirty jobs”?
The Bible opens up with God working—“In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth”—and delighting in His work—“God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good” (Genesis 1:1, 31). So, God placed Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden to work. He wanted them to experience the joy of work in His likeness. But because of the Fall, work became frustrating and burdensome. It is no surprise that a “good” life was soon conceived as a life free from labor.
One of the important teachings of the Reformation was “sanctity of labor.” Until then, only the work of the clergy was considered “sacred” for obvious reasons. The Reformers recovered the biblical teaching and declared all labors to be sacred. They are sacred because God called each of us to it. Thus, the biblical notion of our work as a "calling" was revived.
One of the most discouraging things about work is the feeling of being unappreciated. Sadly, that feeling is a norm, not an exception. Who of us feels fully appreciated for the sacrifices we make for others? Only an omniscient God, who sees in secret, can know the full extent of what we do, of the sacrifice we make (Cf., Matthew 6:3-4). When God rewards, He rewards according to how faithful we are, not according to the result or how our work is deemed by others. A faithful delivery person will receive a greater reward in heaven than a not-so-faithful pastor of a mega church! If we are made to work because we are made in the image of a working God, and if what we do in life is God’s calling, then we must do it in service of God. So, the Bible says, “Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ” (Colossians 3:23-24). The true dignity and worth of our work depend ultimately on whom we work for.
Are you looking for a job or a true calling? A job may help you make a living, but it may also feel like a bondage. A calling is more than a job: it gives us a sense of purpose and fulfillment. But how can we fulfill our calling if we don’t know the One who has called us? And if we work for something other than the One who called us, are we not guilty of violating something sacred?
Jesus came into this world to save us from sin. But His salvation includes our rescue from the frustration and futility of work as well. That's why, amazingly, He spent most of His time on earth working as a carpenter. Even in carpentry, He worked for God's glory and for the good of His neighbors! Thus He affirmed the sanctity of labor. But He also had to suffer and die to pay the penalty of our guilt in order to restore us to the One who made us and called us. Put your trust in Jesus Christ and discover your true calling, the significance of which will extend beyond this world into all eternity!