Theology 101

Finding Joy and Purpose in your Job

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We have looked at the Parable of the Talents, which teaches us that God gives us everything we need in order to do what He has called us to do.

For example, in the Garden of Eden, Adam was given resources to take dominion and produce a return on God’s investment. Likewise James Davison Hunter, author of To Change the World, suggests all Christians are

enjoined to participate in ways framed by the revelation of God’s work in the creative and renewing work of world-making and remaking. And it is in the divine nature of this work that vocation is imbued with great dignity.” (Page 93)

Just as the master in the Parable of the Talents expects his servants to do more than passively preserve what has been entrusted to us, so God expects us to generate a return by using our talents toward productive ends. The servant who received five talents had everything necessary to produce five more; the servant who received two had everything necessary to produce two more; and the servant who received one had everything necessary to produce one more.

Our talents are given for our personal joy, and also for the common good. The Puritan William Perkins, defined calling as a “certain kind of life, ordained and imposed on man by God, for the common good.”

Professor Gene Veith, in a recent article, shows that scripture teaches us that one of the primary ways we glorify God and love our neighbor is through our vocational calling to work. This truth should radically change the way we think about our work.

There is a poignant scene in the 1981 Academy Award-winning movie Chariots of Fire. Eric Liddell, a devout Scottish Christian, is preparing to run in the 1924 Olympics. Liddell’s athletic success has made him a celebrity. His sister believes that Eric’s popularity has caused him to forget his promise to return to China as a missionary. Liddell assures her that he will return to China, but first he must run in the Olympic Games. He believes that God made him for a purpose, but God also made him fast. “When I run,” Liddell says, “I feel God’s pleasure.”

Eric Liddell might have been a five-talent servant, but all of us should feel God’s joy when we are faithful to our calling. This is especially true regarding our vocational calling.

We know that we work in a fallen world. Because of the curse of sin, our work will be difficult, and we will not feel God’s pleasure all the time or at the level we will enjoy in the world to come. But we should feel satisfaction and joy from doing our best with what God has given us in the place where His providence puts us.

This is what the Biblical picture of success looks like and it can fill our vocational work with great joy and satisfaction.

Question: Do you “feel God’s pleasure’ in your vocational work? 

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  • “one of the primary ways we glorify God and love our neighbor is through our vocational calling to work.”

    Thanks so much for the post. As a staff member with our local church, one of the things I am constantly trying to do is help other people recognize the calling they have as businessmen, auto workers, housewives, etc., and the way in which they can glorify God by working hard and finding joy in their work.

  • Tammy Harney Howard

    I work toward helping low income fathers get vocational training and better jobs – but that’s only 50% of the task at hand. The other 50% is about personal growth, and giving these dads the tools they need to transition from poverty to the middle class (without going back into poverty). I “feel God’s pleasure” because I feel that I’m bringing positive energy into their lives, and helping them figure out what path they’re on, what path they want to be on, and how to make the changes they need to make in order to strive toward their goals. It’s my calling, and I love it, even when it’s tough.

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