Just a Job or a Calling?

Pastor James
January 25, 2024

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. There seem to be two approaches to thinking about our jobs.

The first is the ideal approach. “Follow your heart! Don’t ever give!” Does this remind you of a commencement speech you heard? We know why this is the most prominent advice on choosing a career. The commencement 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 hundreds 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 in the narrow fields of “good careers” while employers are not able to fill millions of jobs because nobody wants to do them (because these jobs are not glamorous) and have the skills for them. Mike Rowe says what he says because he firmly believes 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. A “good” life soon became a life free from labor.

The Reformers recovered the biblical teaching and affirmed the “sanctity of labor.” Until then, only the work of the clergy was considered “sacred” for obvious reasons. If all labors can be deemed sacred, it is because God calls people to them. Thus, the biblical notion of our work as a vocation (“calling”).

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 work we do? Only an omniscient God, who sees in secret, can know the full extent of what we do (cf., Matthew 6:3-4). So, when God rewards, He rewards according to how faithful we are, not according to how glamorous the work is. A faithful delivery person will receive a greater reward in heaven than a corrupt politician or CEO of a big company!

Are you looking for a job or a true calling? A job may help you make a living, but it may feel like a shackle. A calling is more than a job: it gives us a sense of purpose and fulfillment. It’s what God has made you to do. You are the way you are because you are born to fulfill your calling. But you are not just a cog in a machine that does what it’s supposed to do. If our calling comes from God, we must do it to honor Him. If we don’t, we are guilty of violating something sacred.

Jesus came into this world to save us from sin. His salvation includes our deliverance from the frustration and futility of work, which came about as a result of our sins. 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 affirming the sanctity of labor. But He also had to suffer and die to pay the penalty of our sins, including the sin of disregarding the honor of God, who extended His sacred call to each of us. Put your trust in Jesus Christ for God’s forgiveness and acceptance. You will also discover your true calling and have the assurance that your labor will not be in vain but bring eternal joy and honor beyond measure!