WORK vs VOCATION – An analysis under Biblical perspectives

Everyone works to earn their living and to support their families. But we also find some who take up jobs to fulfil their passion or jobs that suit their interest and capabilities. Many of us think work and occupation are the same. But both the words have different meanings. The work in which a person is employed is known as his /her occupation. Work requires the involvement of both mental and physical activity to accomplish a particular task. Vocation is where individuals work based on their trained skills. For example, carpenters, electricians, plumbers, etc. who are skilled and trained alone can perform those jobs. The work of a Human Resource Manager is to identify the right person for the right job. But in the current globalized world, various kinds of jobs are available for everyone. An individual can work towards taking up any kind of job irrespective of his/her qualification.

Profession vs Occupation

There is a difference between profession and occupation. A profession requires specialized qualifications, knowledge, skills and training. Occupation is any activity undertaken by an individual to earn his/her livelihood. The qualified and the educated community are sometimes at crossroads when they do not get jobs according to their interest and qualifications, becoming prey to their employers. They become vulnerable when they must choose between meeting their immediate needs or waiting to get a suitable job to build their career or passion.

Believers vs Vocation

Christian believers are no exceptions; they too are facing similar challenges. Initially, individuals used to take up jobs to earn their livelihood. Gradually it turns out to become his vocation. Discipleship and Leadership camps have trained us to submit our lives to God and obey His will. Sometimes when we face financial pressures, we give in, rather than obey God’s call.
The noble prize winner Mother Theresa opines that ‘many people had mistaken their work as their vocation. She had claimed, “Our vocation is the love of Jesus”. Aristotle stated that ‘where your talents and the needs of the world cross; there lies your vocation.

Traits of a believer

1 Timothy 6:1-2 emphasizes that sincerity, honesty, and truthfulness are the traits a true believer is expected to possess. It clearly states that irrespective of what job we are doing we are expected to be faithful in that job. When believers are employed in any place, they are expected to be a witness to the Lord Jesus Christ in their workplaces by doing their duties with full involvement and bringing glory to God. Proverbs 22:29 says ‘ do you see a man who excels in his work? He will stand before kings; He will not stand before unknown men’.
Believers are expected to do their duty with an utmost conscience. In our camps and conferences, we have been taught to do our best in our job in whatever position we are placed. The question is whether we like the job we are doing or not. If we are placed in a job which is not of our interest, we should accept the fact that God has kept us in that work to fulfil His plans for our lives. So, we should prayerfully ask God to teach us ways and means to improve our interests in the job and develop strategies to excel in that job God has assigned to us.

Reflections on work and vocation

The diagram explains how work can become a vocation. We might get a job which satisfies our interest either partially or fully. But we should always remember that God would have planned to use us as a blessing to others in that job. The diagram given below exhibits that the overlapping of the vocation and work can happen on some occasions. If our priorities are one-sided, we will end up spending more time earning more. Similarly when the vocation becomes monotonous and a routine then we will not be able to enjoy our profession. The vocation will become work if we work under compulsion and not out of passion and gratitude to God. Work may overlap with vocation when God uses us in the place we are called to serve.
We also need to demarcate and draw boundaries if our work does not enable us to live a balanced life. As one grows in their career to higher roles and responsibilities, it becomes challenging to also give time for ministry. At times, senior roles and positions force us to compromise our integrity. This has happened to many of our EGF graduates and this might become a snare of the devil to hinder us from doing God’s ministry. Now the question is whether I am happy doing the work which enables me to do God’s work as a vocation?

Work in accordance with God’s plan

Lord Jesus Christ has taught us to follow HIS command to ‘Love the Lord with all our heart, soul and mind’ and ‘Love your neighbour as yourself. When we accepted Christ, as our saviour, our aim of life would be changed as God’s child. From then onwards, our attitude and passion will change and we will be willing to please God in everything we do including our area of work. If my work brings dishonour to our Lord, or the resources being used are unacceptable in the sight of our Lord or if the outcome of the job leads another person to sin, it will not be right in the sight of our Lord. In such a situation it will be wise to leave the job. As a believer you are expected to obey God first, and not the Manager. Your conscience will not allow you to proceed further. In such a situation, God will give wisdom and strength to take a decision which will bring honour and glory to God and not to the Manager.

God’s ministry as a vocation

We might see many missionaries, evangelists and pastors doing God’s work at different places for building God’s kingdom. Vocation is to do the work with full involvement and with likeness. Here work and vocation merge to glorify God. God’s servants depend on God for their earnings and resource for themselves and family. Though organizations like Dioceses, mission agencies and other movements employ full-time workers, then these individuals consider ministry as their vocation to work for God’s kingdom.
Our EU/EGF students and graduates take on additional responsibilities to serve God in the ministry. It is not considered as work but it is considered as a vocation because we are voluntarily taking up the responsibility to serve God in a given stipulated time. In case, if anyone feels that it is burdensome, it can
be considered as work because they might have taken the job due to the compulsion of others.

Suggestions to improve our vocation

Advancement in every field is required. If an individual accepts to do his vocation, he has to decide to excel in the area for which he needs to equip himself with the requisite knowledge that field and he should understand the pressing needs and requirements of his vocation. Even areas of the ministry need to be made more interesting to bring interest to the hearers as well as the preachers. Periodic training is required for Christian workers and leaders to enable them to serve God with passion and not out of compulsion. If a person is not showing interest in improving his skills, then ministry cannot be his vocation.

Tips to choose the right type of work or vocation

We always think that our qualification, our calling to serve God, our passion and interest in a particular field and our family background comes to our mind when choosing a job. The question is whether I can satisfy all four areas of my interest in the work. I may give importance to my qualifications to get a higher position due to the lucrative salary I may receive. My family also may get excited but it may not satisfy my inner desire of glorifying God. We should remember that God’s calling is different to every individual. As per our availability, nature and talents, God’s people may be fully satisfied to do God’s will. God trains people by giving them skills or talents to meet the needs of HIS kingdom.

Daniel: King’s choice but it is a God’s choice:
When God plans one’s life, he can empower the work of captivity to the work of God to fulfil God’s plan in this world. Daniel praised ‘Praise be to the name of God forever and ever; wisdom and power are his. He changes times and seasons . . .’ (Dan. 2: 20-21).

Faithful work
Master certified the servants who multiplied the talents that ‘Well done, good and faithful servant, you have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter the joy of your master.’ (Matthew 25:14-30).

Thomas Ragland studied Mathematics in Cambridge University born in 1815 and landed in Madras, India as a missionary 1846 and died in 1858. Although he had an opportunity to be in royal palace, he left all his lucrative life style and came to Sivakasi, India, since he was disturbed by the thought that thousands were dying without knowing Christ. He visited village after village and shared the Gospel to many villages. In Sivakasi, Ragland was chased away by the villagers with stones and sticks. But the incidents motivated him to do God’s ministry more. During his life time, he has not seen much fruits of his labour. But after his death, many churches have been formed by his ministry in Tirunelveli and Sivakasi areas of Tamil Nadu, India. The mathematic graduate of Cambridge University has left the qualified profession, and taken up the cross to serve in Indian soil as passion of his vocation by the will of God.

God will provide the requisite skills to his children to excel both in work and vocation.

God’s word says that “Whatever you do work at it with all your heart as working for the Lord, not for men” (Colossians 3:23).

Peter was a ‘fisherman’ but God called him to become ‘fisher of men’. Saul had planned to kill Christ-followers, but he became the chosen vessel to preach the Gospel to gentiles. Life-changing incident will transform a person to do God’s will whether it is from his profession or his occupation.

Dr R Moses Inbaraj is a retired faculty of Madras Christian College and Dr Madhana Rekha is working as a faculty in MCC. Both belong to Tambaram EGF, Chennai and actively Involved in EU ministry. Inbaraj is involving in UESI-mission cell. Early days he studied and worked in Banaras Hindu University as a witnessing student as well as a faculty. He has two children, Amy and Andrew. Amy is married and working as a government medical doctor and Andrew as a software professional at Bangalore.

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