Theology 101

How to Understand Your Vocational Calling

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In order to understand the Biblical doctrine of work, we must clearly understand the differences between vocational calling and career, occupation, or job. Vocational calling is the call to God and to His service in the vocational sphere of life based on giftedness, desires, affirmations, and human need.

Vocational calling is usually stable and permanent over a lifetime. Discovering our vocation is possible because it is based on giftedness, interests, passions, and human need, which are all easy to identify.

Frederick Buechner in his book Wishful Thinking described it by saying, “the place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.”

In the medieval church, vocational calling applied only to the holy orders of the priests. We have seen how the reformers restored vocation as applied to all work. In regard to the secondary calling of vocation, Martin Luther wrote,

What you do in your house is worth as much as if you did it up in heaven for our Lord God. For what we do in our calling here on earth in accordance with His word and command He counts as if it were done in Heaven for Him… Therefore we should accustom ourselves to think of our position and work as sacred and well-pleasing to God, not on account of the position and the work, but on account of the word and faith from which the obedience and the work flow.

A career should be based on the opportunities for service which are presented to a believer enabling him or her to fulfill their vocation.

Finding the right occupation at any one time is a matter of God’s specific leadership, guidance, and provision. Solomon wrote, “A man can do nothing better than to eat and drink and find satisfaction in all his work. This too, I see, is from the hand of God, for without Him, who can eat or find enjoyment?” (Ecclesiastes 2:24-25).

Vocational calling stays the same as we move in and out of different jobs and careers. Our vocation is directly related to the discovery of our God-given talents. Over time we develop and hone them into useful competencies for the glory of God and the service of others, often in various jobs and occupations.

Our vocational calling from God to the workplace is something above any given job or even a career.

Question: How does this definition of vocational calling change your perception of your daily work? Leave a comment here.

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  • kraymond

    w0w very helpful i have been struggling thanks for the help.

  • Scott Tiede

    I disagree with vocational calling because the Bible does not instruct us that there is such a thing. Also, the way you described the ‘vocational call’, it seems to be one-sided (based on human gifts, human passions, etc). How does God ‘call’ someone to a vocation. I don’t think it exists. This is an area of freedom.

    • Peter O’Neill

      Sure it does. The apostle Paul was called to a mission and assignment from God. The word “vocation” comes from the Latin word vocatio’ … which means a summons or a “call.” The Bible tells us to make our calling and election sure.

    • wannabef

      Exodus 35 gives us a beautiful description of vocational calling:

      “Then Moses said to the people of Israel, “See, the LORD has called by name Bezalel the son of Uri, son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah; and he has filled him with the Spirit of God, with skill, with intelligence, with knowledge, and with all craftsmanship, to devise artistic designs, to work in gold and silver and bronze, in cutting stones for setting, and in carving wood, for work in every skilled craft. And he has inspired him to teach, both him and Oholiab the son of Ahisamach of the tribe of Dan. He has filled them with skill to do every sort of work done by an engraver or by a designer or by an embroiderer in blue and purple and scarlet yarns and fine twined linen, or by a weaver—by any sort of workman or skilled designer.”

      Here we have specifically named people, called by name, filled with the Spirit AND with earthly talents to serve God in constructing the tabernacle. They were not priest or prophets. They were artisans filled with talents for a purpose.

  • Bruce Bruinsma

    Let’s start out by agreeing that God “owns all, and all of us who confess the name of Jesus as Lord. With that perspective our role becomes one of “steward”. Steward not just of money and physical assets, but of the personal gifts he gives us and expects us to use for His Glory. Again, with those understandings and understanding the role of the Holy Spirit, “Jesus without a body”, in our lives, all we do God honoring and our work, vocation, and job are all part of His plan to shape us for service and a joyful life in him.

  • Ceannasai

    This mini article doesn’t quite measure up to the title. The piece seems to be targeted to an audience who already has their vocations figured out and are doing well in them. While I agree to a point that it is possible for one to “discover” his/her vocation, I disagree that vocation never changes – nor do I agree that everyone finds it “easy” to identify gifts and passions (as there is no one set way to find those gifts, and as passions often change).

  • Hugh Whelchel

    That is exactly right. It is important for us to understand who we were created to be.This is what we call at the Institute “calling.” It extends beyond your job and stays relatively constant throughout a lifetime because it is based on who you are at the deepest level. Understanding this overarching calling can help us choose the correct career path or specific job at any point in our careers. Understanding who God has made us to be helps us understand what he’s called us to do.

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