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WORK. CAREER. CALLING. WHAT'S THE DIFFERENCE? PT. 2

by Hugh Welchel

We learned in the last devotional that by improperly understanding our "work" - it no longer serves God. It serves us.

We mistakenly use three words interchangeably—and should not. They are “vocation,” career,” and “job.” Vocation is the most profound of the three, and it has to do with your calling.

Christians today have the same difficulty understanding the differences between vocation, career, and job. We also throw in the word “calling,” which further complicates things. Calling may or may not mean the same thing as vocation.

The Difference between Vocational Calling, Career, and Everyday Work

In order to understand the biblical doctrine of work, we must understand a fourth term, vocational calling, and how it differs from career, occupation, or job.

Vocational calling is the call to God and to his service in the sphere of vocation based on giftedness, desires, affirmations, and human need. It is usually stable and permanent over a lifetime (unlike a job or a career, which can change often).

How are vocational calling and career related? A career should be based on the opportunities for service presented to believers, enabling them to fulfill their vocational callings. Finding the right career at any one time is a matter of God’s specific leadership, guidance, and provision.

Vocational calling from God to the workplace is above a job or a career. Luther and the Reformers saw occupation as timely opportunity for service, in God’s providence, presented to believers to enable them to fulfill their vocational calling through what we would call everyday work.

Rather than equate vocational calling with a specific occupation or career, we are called to be Christians in whatever situation we find ourselves. Vocational calling stays the same as we move in and out of different jobs and careers. It is directly related to the discovery of our God-given talents. We develop and hone these talents into useful competencies for the glory of God and the benefit of others, often in various jobs or occupations.

Thus vocational calling provides a framework for our jobs, careers, and occupations. As R. Paul Stevens describes in Doing God’s Business: “The New Testament treats work in the context of a larger framework: the call of God to live totally for him and his kingdom.”

Do you see your career as a vocational calling? Or is it just work? And why?

As a result, do you see the Lord's hand in your work? So are you fulfilled? Are you flourishing? Or not?

CLS Prayer

Dear God, Thank you for the calling to serve you in all that I do, from the daily mundane to the often extraordinary, in my daily work. Remind me that I am called to work totally for you and your kingdom in all things. Amen.

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Hugh Whelchel is Executive Director of the Institute for Faith, Work & Economics (www.tifwe.org) and author of How Then Should We Work?: Rediscovering the Biblical Doctrine of Work. CLS often works with the Institue for Faith, Work & Economics (IFWE) to provide thoughtful and inspiring devotionals to CLS members. IFWE is a non-profit, 501(c)(3) Christian research organization committed to promoting biblical and economic principles that help individuals find fulfillment in their work and contribute to a free and flourishing society