At Work & Theology 101

Are You Free to Be Whatever You Choose?

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Modern life provides us with more freedom and opportunities to pursue our calling compared with past eras.

So begins a helpful article on calling by Alex Chediak entitled Vocation Plans. Chediak’s article has a lot to say about how to think about calling and job prospects, but what struck me the most is the sense of freedom associated with calling.

Finding one’s calling can be such a stressful endeavor that it’s easy to lose sight of the liberating, Christian view of freedom that accompanies our callings.

Free to Be Whatever?

Regarding today’s nearly boundless opportunity, Chediak explains,

A hundred years ago young adults did not have anywhere near the mind-boggling and almost debilitating options available today. In general, sons took on the line of work of their fathers, and girls adopted whatever domestic, social, and vocational roles their mothers held…Today, relatively few pursue the line of work of their parents.

As Anne Bradley has pointed out, one reason for this is the incredible economic growth experienced over the couple of centuries. Growth in economic freedom has allowed human beings more freedom and opportunity to purse a variety of callings. (You can read more about this phenomenon and why it matters for Christians here)

Chediak poses a question about this extraordinary freedom:

How might Christians think about the freedoms and opportunities afforded by modern life?

In 1994 British rock band Oasis released a song called “Whatever.” The opening lines: “I’m free to be whatever I/whatever I choose…”.

This is a common, but incorrect, view of freedom as it relates to both calling and our jobs. A Christian view of freedom suggests we’re not really free to be whatever we choose, as Hugh Whelchel has written about before.

We can only be what we were created to be, given the unique talents God has gifted us with. It’s a big lie if you’re told otherwise.

Yet as Chediak suggests, we are free to pursue the callings that are related to the talents we’re born with, talents that we hone into skills and competencies through practice and discipline.

Chediak points out how this might lead us to several choices, among which we’re free to choose:

But you may legitimately find many things that you do well – more than one of which is marketable. If multiple doors of opportunity are opening, the decision is then an exercise in Christian liberty (emphasis added).

In light of such choices, other factors then come into play after determining what you’re good at:

  • What you’re passionate about.
  • The future advancement and job prospects in a particular field.
  • Whether the work meets a real need in the world, a question Matt Perman explores in this previous post.

Our “exercise in Christian liberty,” though, is structured by more than just our skills.

Structured Freedom

Our freedom as it relates to calling isn’t just bound by what we’re good at doing. Chediak suggests there are other elements that contribute to the “structured freedom” in the lives of Christians. One element is morality:

In choosing a line of work, there is a degree of freedom. But it is a structured freedom: structured, for example, by God’s moral law (producing internet pornography and distributing drugs are off the table)…

We’re free to pursue our calling within the boundaries of Christian morality. Another element of structured freedom is responsibility. We all have existing responsibilities to tend to, what Chediak says represents “other legitimate callings from God on our lives.”

These responsibilities are things within the realm of our other secondary callings: church, community, and family. Chediak’s concern is that we choose jobs and careers that allow us to balance them with these other responsibilities. He writes,

The full complexity of our lives should be considered at a vocational crossroads – we don’t make these decisions in a vacuum (without the consultation of loved ones and even church leaders).

The fact that we don’t (or at least shouldn’t) make calling-related decisions in a vacuum is freeing, too. We don’t have to carry the weight of finding our calling alone. We can share it with others who can help us make wise decisions, and we can share it with God himself, who has wisdom in spades if we ask for it.

Editor’s Note: On “Flashback Friday,” we take a look at some of IFWE’s former posts that are worth revisiting. This post was previously published on May 16, 2014.

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