A biblical view of work runs throughout all of scripture. We are given the cultural mandate (Gen. 1:28) in Genesis to use our gifts to cultivate the kingdom of God. Our work then plays a part in God’s plan for restoration laid out in the book of Revelation.
We have lost sight of this perspective, and, as a result, we have lost any sense of calling. What is calling, and what does it mean for our lives?
Types of Calling
I want to focus on two types of callings:
- General Calling: The primary meaning of calling in scripture is a general one—we are called out of an old, sinful way of life into a new, redeemed, and faithful way of life. There are numerous references to this general calling throughout the New Testament, especially in Romans.
- Particular Calling: This type of calling, used in 1 Corinthians 7:17-24, refers to our state or condition of life. 1 Corinthians 7:20 and 7:24 repeat the refrain, “Let each man remain in that calling in which he was called.”
Even though the particular calling does not speak specifically to our jobs, it is important to note that the general call is sufficient to understand that we should be faithful to the Lord in all areas of our lives, including in our work.
Implications of Calling
The primary emphasis of scripture is on the general call. We are called to a new way of life and faithfulness to our Lord. This means being faithful to God, our families, our church, our nation (as citizens), and our work.
Our faithfulness can sometimes be gauged by examining our priorities, or how we spend our time. When we are faithful to the callings God has placed upon our lives, we will experience meaning, significance, and wholeness. If our priorities are askew, we will not.
If we are faithful, calling impacts and orients our lives in a variety of ways:
- A sense of calling gives us perspective on what we do. Whether we succeed or fail, we can sustain motivation to our calling if we remain faithful. For instance, William Wilberforce fought for the abolition of slavery in England for almost thirty years. He endured constant vilification and many disheartening obstacles. Yet he pressed on towards his goal because he knew what God had called him to do.
- Calling can keep us from compromising. Sometimes in our work we face the temptation to compromise our values. We may be challenged to act unethically in order to advance in our careers. I have a friend who became a whistleblower. He worked for a state government and found out that some workers were being treated in a way that was not right. He was warned that exposing the issue would lead him to lose his job and worse. Because of his faith in Christ, he decided to do what was right. What was most important to him was faithfulness to Christ—faithfulness to calling, not to compromise.
- We are called to be good stewards of our gifts. If you look at 1 Corinthians 12:8-10, Romans 12:6-8, and Ephesians 4:11-13, you will find various lists of gifts to be used in the body of Christ. We are called to know what our gifts are and to use them vigorously for his kingdom. We are to use the same gifts in the world with respect to our work. Our “natural” gifts are our “created” gifts—given to us by God. The Fall has withered, misdirected, or twisted our natural gifts. However, the Holy Spirit can redirect these gifts to benefit both the church and the world.
- Don’t expect a “perfect” use of your gifts. We live in a world that is far from perfect. It is often difficult to find a job that fully fits your gifts. Even if you could land the perfect job, you would find that it wasn’t perfect because you are fallen, and the people around you are fallen. Although you shouldn’t expect perfection, you should strive to be a good steward of the gifts you were given.
You have been called for a purpose—to use your gifts to serve the common good, bring glory to God, and to advance his kingdom. By God’s grace, we can know why we are called, what we are called to do, and how we are to do it.
Editor’s note: Learn more about the biblical meaning of calling in Understanding God’s Calling, a high school homeschool course suitable for a variety of ages and educational settings.
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On “Flashback Friday,” we take a look at some of IFWE’s former posts that are worth revisiting. This article was previously published on Aug. 22, 2012.