Calling and Career

Forthcoming in CTrends

There comes a point in the life of every young person when s/he asks the question, “What career track should I choose for my life?” It is important at this juncture to clearly differentiate between calling and career. There is certainly a difference between both of them; though, often the difference is not visible at once. So, the question, “What is the calling of my life?” precedes “What is the career track that I must choose?” But, first let’s point out the differences:
  1. Career or vocation can be chosen; calling is given by God.
  2. Career is functional and a means to an end; calling is the end or purpose of one’s life.
  3. Career is the occupation that one is trained for; calling precedes training.
  4. Careers can change based on the demand-supply curve of the market and opportunity of work; calling is permanent.
One important ground verse of career choice in the Bible is Ecclesiastes 9:10: “Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might.” (Emphatics mine). Ephesians 4:28 equalizes it with the ethic of generosity that requires that everybody must “work, doing something useful with his own hands, that he may have something to share with those in need.” Paul himself sometimes resorted to the tent-making business because he was a tentmaker by profession (Acts 18:3); however, he was called to be an apostle and set apart for the Gospel of Jesus Christ (Rom.1:1). Tent-making was not his calling; just a profession. But, of course, Paul’s choice to continue in this work at certain times was very voluntary; in fact, a minister of the Gospel is expected to be supported by the church in the work of the Gospel (1Cor.9:14; Matt.4:19,20; 1Cor.9:5,6). However, Paul didn’t want to be a burden to others; though he did gratefully receive what was cheerfully given to him (2Cor.11:7-9). He strongly declares:

We were not idle when we were with you, nor did we eat anyone's food without paying for it. On the contrary, we worked night and day, laboring and toiling so that we would not be a burden to any of you. We did this, not because we do not have the right to such help, but in order to make ourselves a model for you to follow. For even when we were with you, we gave you this rule: "If a man will not work, he shall not eat." …we command and urge in the Lord Jesus Christ to settle down and earn the bread they eat.  (2Thess 3:7-12, Emphatics mine)

Now there are a few things to keep in mind when opting for a career track.
  1. Do not confuse life’s passion with career. For instance, one may have a passion for photography; however, one doesn’t need to make photography one’s career just for the passion of photography. He must first do what work he finds at hand, the work that is most conducive to earning his bread in his situation. Eventually, he may have resources to do photography as well.
  2. Do not choose a career track that is unethical and unbiblical. That should be very clear. It is unimaginable for a Christian to be working in a cigarette or liquor company, for instance (nor sell or market such stuff).
  3. Choose a career that matches your personality type. There are some who are good in jobs that require people-relationship. There are others who are good only in book-keeping or paper work.
  4. Choose a career that you can be more efficient in. A person may not have the abilities needed for medical training, to be a doctor, but may have the abilities to start or manage hospitals that can employ scores of doctors. Everybody has different and equally important abilities that must be discovered, polished, and perfected. Not everyone may fulfill the physical and psychological requirements to be in an army, to be a vocalist, or to be a wrestler.
  5. Choose a career that will not be a burden but a joy and enthusiasm to you. Of course, to the lazy guy, no work is enthusiastic; and, companies must take care not to employ people who lack enthusiasm. However, if a person who loves to work as a car engineer tries to work in a school; though, he may be efficient, his enthusiasm may be low. Similarly, a person who is most satisfied in the teaching profession cannot be very happy for long in a car factory. But, if that is the only job at hand, it is important to consider the situation in light of God’s purposes. There are exceptional conditions; but, a child of God will understand purpose through the understanding of the divine calling that drives him.
  6. Do not choose a profession as a career that has very low market demand. It may become a self-imposed ordeal. For instance, if someone wishes to keep running a typing institute (that teaches typing on old type-writers), his business may fail; he will need to upgrade to Desk Top Publishing (DTP) in order to keep at pace with the demand-supply curve.
  7. Get the training and self-education necessary for the career you wish to pursue. Learning is not a once for all event; it is dynamic and goes on. One must continue to upgrade oneself, rehearse, repeat, think over, discover, develop, and progress in the field of occupation he is in.
  8. Don’t just ask, “What is the most profitable track?” But, look to a balance of your abilities, equipment, enthusiasm, and possibilities. There are other things like family, place, risk, church, and time-framework that you may need to consider when choosing a career track.
  9. It is important to prayerfully consider a career. However, one must keep in mind the “whatever your hands find to do” principle. Don’t linger over uncertainty of choice. God gives wisdom to those who don’t waver and are full of faith. Make a godly choice quickly and do not change it.
  10. Avoid short-cuts and dishonest methods. God doesn’t bless such efforts (Prov. 20:21; 21:5; 22:1).
  11. Trust in God; not in money (Prov.11:28; 23:5; Matt. 6:24; 1Tim.6:17)
Again, to sum it, career can be chosen, jobs may change and be upgraded; however, calling remains unchanged. So, it is important for one to ask, “What is God’s calling over my life?”

1.      The first step, of course, is to receive Jesus as Lord over one’s life; for unless, one’s eyes are opened to the light of God and one has moved from darkness to light, one cannot see the purposes of God.
2.      Then, it is important to look into the most driving passion of one’s heart that relates to the Great Commission of evangelizing and discipling the nations. One’s passion may be to see how much one can give away in charity to help those who are in need. Another’s passion may be to be involved in and/or sponsor Christian arts and media. Someone else may have the passion to be a personal assistant to Christian ministers. Someone’s passion may be hospitality. Someone else may find deep sense of fulfillment in ministering to children in the Church. There is no end to the many different areas of ministry; and, certainly, we all have been called to bear witness to the truth and serve others in one way or the other (John 18:37; Mark 10:45; Gal.5:13).
3.      One must note what area of work of the Lord one is most happy and more gifted serving in. For instance, if I am more gifted in interior designing, then physical arrangement and designing may be where God wishes to use me. It is no use blaming others and feeling unsatisfied that others are not good at something that I am good at. Instead of complaining about the same, it is important to step up and make a difference in that area.
4.      Be sensitive to the voice of the Lord. He speaks through His Word, through His servants, through other believers, and through the inner voice. However, be careful not to be influenced by human ideas regarding what the Lord has clearly revealed to you (Gal.1:16). But, of course, certainly, God’s revelation doesn’t conflict with the revelation of His Word.
5.      Be sensitive to the Lord’s circumstantial guidance. There are no chance happenings and accidental events in the life of God’s child, when his heart has totally committed itself to Him. God will bring circumstances and connections in our life that may be like the winds on the sail of a ship to lead us where He wants us to be. He orchestrates our lives when we commit these instruments into His care.

God does gift us with a personality, with certain talents, and brings in circumstances and opportunities in our lives that will help us to be equipped for a work. In that sense, yes, God has certain job areas that He has gifted us to be fruitful in. However, instead of spending too much time in confusion regarding what that career track exactly is, one must follow the principle of doing “whatever one’s hand finds to do”; i.e. to know what job one’s hand can handle and what most fruitful job is at hand. There are some who waste much time in job-hunting alone, and then use dishonest means to get that job. That certainly is not the biblical way. The bottom line: “If anyone lacks wisdom, let him ask of God” (James 1:5). Of course, it is also very important to ask oneself why God has placed us in a position in a place. Queen Esther had to ask that and she discovered it as well (Esther 4:14; Acts 17:26,27). But, in all this quest for career one must not forget this: “what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul” (Mar 8:36). A purposeful life is only one that gains and gathers something for eternity. It certainly means nothing if I am very useful to the world but useless (or less useful) to God.