4 ways God calls us to the same things
We long to know our calling because it is so tied to our identity. Trying to figure out what we should do with our lives can consume our thoughts. This obsession to pinpoint our purpose can be tied to a theology of calling that is oftentimes limiting, crippling, and paralyzing. Also, the notion of a particular calling excludes many audiences for whom work is not glorious or not even an option due to circumstances, age, or ability. We’ve bought into an idea that there is one career we are meant to have, one job we are meant to do, or one position we were meant to fill. This tempts us to overlook the present by worrying ourselves about a mysterious future. This theology of calling is too singular and keeps us from valuing good work, whether paid or unpaid, right around us.
In the Bible we find a story that reveals many callings, not musings about one elusive, narrow calling. These callings transcend our workplace to give us purpose regardless of our job title. They give us an identity beyond our job status and ability. And they build a foundation for following Christ when life takes sudden turns in unexpected directions.
A call to steward creation
Our first calling is to bear the image of God and be vice-regents on his behalf, preserving and cultivating creation (Gen 1-2). These callings are essential to our human existence and are never rescinded. Therefore, when our job circumstances raise doubts about our calling, our purpose to steward creation still remains. When work does not bring clear and consistent identity, these callings root us as image bearers and vice-regents. Regardless of our job, they tell us who we are and what we are to do.
It also tells us this earth is the place of our calling. We may not be certain what job we are doing next, or whether or not we are in the best role within our job, or even if the job we are doing matters, but we can be sure that wherever our corner of the world is, it is a place that God is committed to and deeply cares about. Therefore, the ground upon which our feet tread and the place where our hands and minds find use, whether it’s your dream career or drudgery, is good and worthy of our efforts.
A call to bless others
The calling of Abram reveals the grand scope of our callings. Abram was a recipient of God’s blessing, and in turn he was to be a blessing to the nations. God’s grace was to flow through Abram and his people as a conduit unto the nations. So as we reflect God and participate with him in the care of his creation, we are also called to be a blessing. From the nursing home to the courtroom, it is our duty and privilege to work toward human flourishing by cultivating the enjoyment of creation and the “fruits of human activity,” as Richard Bauckham puts it in Bible and Mission. In our homes and neighborhoods, our offices and job sites, our work ought to bless others, for this is one of our callings.
A call to reflect God’s goodness
After their redemption out of Egyptian slavery, Israel is called to be a kingdom of priests and a holy nation (Ex 19:4-6). As a new nation, they were given a new governing order in the Ten Commandments. Being a “holy nation” was a call to demonstrate the goodness of God’s moral order in the midst of the nations passing through Canaan. As a “kingdom of priests” they were to serve as a mediator between God and mankind.
We too are called to be people who demonstrate the goodness of God by following his moral order (Deut 4:5-8), and whose lives act as a bridge. So whether we are in the workforce or not, we can ask ourselves the questions, Does my life give those around me a better picture of the goodness and grace of God? Does my life invite others to this God? So when the tasks are boring, how we do them is still significant. When we feel unsettled about the day, we can find rest when we resolve to try to demonstrate God’s moral goodness, for this is one of our callings.
Jesus’ calling to his new covenant people
The call to love God and love our neighbor is the summary of the purpose of our humanity in its clearest form. There may be no more anchoring of a call in Scripture we can tie ourselves to for daily life with God. When we strip down all the pressures of finding our unique fit and design in our work, or the pressures of unemployment, we can rest in the simple pursuit of loving God and loving our neighbor.
The Great Commission in Matthew 28 also gives us purpose regardless of our work status. It is not a fundamentally new calling, but rather a call in accordance with the new epoch of redemptive history, the coming of the Messiah in Christ. The Great Commission reenlists us to the global purview of God’s mission and it reestablishes our agency and duty to the rest of the callings found in the biblical story.
The callings in the biblical story can release us from the daunting pressure of pinpointing our purpose, and instead can bring real meaning to the tasks of everyday life, in our work, our home, and our community.Topics: Calling and Career Choice, Christian Life, Theology, Theology of Work