Posted by: Brian Musser | May 22, 2014

Every Christian’s General Call (Part 1)

Work-Ship – Week Seven:  Knowing God’s Will for your Work  – Day Forty-Three:  Every Christian’s General Call (Part 1)

We have been concentrating on the idea that work is good. No matter what we are doing (with the exception of blatant sin) we can do it as worship toward God. Any type of work can be seen as ultimately valuable in its relation to God. This is because the image of God can shine through us as we work. We can work like God works. We can work in obedience to God’s command toward humanity to work. We can acknowledge our dependence upon God as we work in His creation and with the skills He has given us. And we work in community being a model of the Trinity in action. We have established that work can be worship. So with that said, what should we be doing?

If there are many available and good options for us, how do we decide what specifically to do?  Does God care what type of work we do?  Should we seek God’s guidance in our career and job choices?  What does that guidance look like?

These are important questions today because of our occupational mobility, which is a relatively recent development brought by the Industrial Revolution. Historically occupations were not a matter of personal decisions. You did what your father did before you. The sons of carpenters were carpenters. The sons of farmers were farmers. Boys went into the family business. It was not just an expectation. It was merely a fact. Today some people experience pressure from their parents to choose the same line of work that they have chosen. Fathers still want and encourage their sons to take over the family business. This is not what I’m talking about. In previous times there really were not options for occupations. It was occupationally static for all males. I have been intentionally sexist in my description because there were even fewer choices for women.

Some rare moments the community would call on a specifically gifted individual into a different line of service. Every once and awhile a father could arrange special training for a son in a different occupation. Some people would be chosen by the elders to go into religion. At other times the community would demand some to go to war.  But these were not matters of personal decisions. The individual never had to wrestle with the question of what should I do.

Scripture is written in this context of static occupations. Farmers remained farmers and slaves typically remained slaves. Soldiers were soldiers. Tax collectors stayed as tax collectors. The best Christian theological development on work can be seen in the idea of vocation. However; most of the thinking was initiated John Calvin and finalized from within the European feudal system. The feudal system is still a context of basically static occupations. Allow me to summarize traditional Christian medieval thinking on work. An omnipotent and omniscient God has divinely ordered the entire world down to the minutia of detail. This order includes your station in His created realm. Where God has placed you is exactly where God wants you. To question your occupation is to question the very plan of God. But today things have changed. So what guidance can we find from God for the occupational context in which we find ourselves?

Even in Scriptures that were written in a static environment we can apply some of the principles to our new found freedom in the world of work.  First of all let’s look at one verse that encourages change.

1 Corinthians 7:21 (NIV)  Were you a slave when you were called? Don’t let it trouble you—although if you can gain your freedom, do so.

Although, slavery was more than just an occupation in Ancient Roman culture, it was at its core type of work.  This verse does two specific things.  It allows people to be content in a less than optimal work environment.  If you are forced into work and working conditions that are not perfect it is okay.  In other places Paul will even encourage you to do your best in even bad situations.  But it also says that if we do have the opportunity to pursue a working situation that is better than our current condition we should.  It is okay to be downtrodden if you can’t change your circumstances but if you can go for it.   The Scriptures allow for us to move but how should we decide to do that?

Every Christian’s General Calling:
Every part of every Christian’s life is challenged by the basics of their faith. Every Christian’s occupation must also come under the influence of their Christianity. You must work as a Christian should work. An in-depth look at what it means to be a Christian is a grand topic that is outside of this endeavor. For the interest of time (with the hope that I’m not being too cliché) I will summarize the Christian faith by the Great Commandment and the Great Commission.

The Great Commandment

Matthew 22:37-39 (HCSB)  He said to him, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and most important command. The second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself.

Everything we do must fall within the parameters of a healthy worshipful loving relationship with God. And nothing we do should interfere with our love of others.  Your work must not interfere with your relationship with God.  You must be able to love the Lord your God at your work with a clear conscience.  You must be able to love your neighbor at your job.  You cannot have a job that primarily bring suffering to innocent human beings and feel that it is compatible with your Christian faith.  And the second tier of that question is if it doesn’t interfere which job will help you love God and love other s the best.

Does your job by its very nature interfere with your worship of God?

Does you your job help or hinder you loving others?

Does your job contribute to your love of God?

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