13 May 2010

How clear IS our vocation, Lord?

Vocation is not the same as a job. To wit:

Mother is a vocation. Folding laundry is a job.
Husband is a vocation. Assembling porch gliders is a job.
Breadwinner is a vocation. Tinker, tailor, soldier, and spy are jobs.

Vocation is not our license to do whatever in the world we want with our lives in nomine Jesu. In fact, vocation obligates us to direct our energies and resources to others. This requires us to sacrifice pride and comfort, for others often need things beneath our dignity. The beauty of vocation is not that whatever we're good at is good for us to do, but that whatever God ordains for us to do is good.

Vocation cannot be a front for pursuing dreams. Vocation does not mean "stewardship of my gifts" or "whatever the heck I'm doing right now." Only a liberal arts major or a Commissioned Minister could believe this. Not everyone has the privilege of pursuing the job they would most enjoy, or even a job where their gifts lie.

Those who are called to the work of breadwinning must put winning sufficient bread ahead of their personal interests, and God bless them for doing it. We wouldn't think much of a father who spent his time waiting for a major record label to pick up one of his ditties while his children suffered want for the sake of his musical gift. We would think much of him if he got a job that supported his family adequately and used his musical talent in an avocational capacity in the service of his church. Christians do not claim some right to do what we want or like, because our neighbors very often need us to make a regular habit of doing otherwise. In fact, Christians don't claim rights at all; only Americans do.

Breadwinners should win bread. They should keep in mind the danger of gathering more than they need. If they are able to win bread by means of their favored talents, they can thank God for his benevolence. They can either take comfort or derive humility from knowing that the way they win bread is not, in fact, a matter of vocation. And all people can use their gifts, talents, and interests avocationally for the glory of God and the good of His people.

13 comments:

Gauntlets said...

I'm really glad you said this.

Tena said...

Me too :)

Anonymous said...

Thanks for posting this. My husband and I have been debating this very topic all year- and that Timothy passage. He's studying at Seminary, and I've had to teach. Our son was born last summer, and we've been sending him to daycare this school year. Last summer, I was convinced that I could be a working mom. Now, I realize my place is at home, and it's been a daily struggle for us. Several times he's wondered if he should leave seminary so he could go provide for his family, and I've told him not to. My reasoning is that he's preparing for a job that will allow him to be the breadwinner. Also, one of our close friends has been trying to find a job since last summer, and only now got hired on at minimum wage, 20 hours a week. Certainly not enough to provide for a family.

So I guess my question is this: how much are Seminary students like the starving artist, waiting for their big break?

Untamed Shrew said...

Anon, during our sem days when the Lord trumped our sin with Princess #1, we ate a lot of ramen noodles and bananas. My husband broke the work-study rules by getting 6 part-time jobs, and I sometimes made money singing for weddings and funerals. We accumulated some student loan debt, but I never regretted our decision.

Reb. Mary said...

I like this. The way "vocation" is thrown around was bugging me again. If/when my brain unfogs a bit, I'll like this even more. :P

Reb. Mary said...

Anon, sigh. We've long thought that the Sem system needs fixing, in several ways, somehow. I think one or more of us have actually blogged on it at various points. May God bless the heart he's given you for your mother-wife-vocation, and guide you in the details!

Sue said...

I think every student graduating from high school or college should be handed a copy of this post! I'm in a different place in my life than you are - raised my children from the time they were 7 and 4 as a single mother, now about to become a grandmother. I've struggled working at a job that I don't much like (though I'm very good at it). Your post helped me remember why I'm doing this. Also, I keep a copy of Co. 3:23-24 on my desk, to remind me of who I am REALLY working for.

Marie said...

Beautifully said! Hey-there's an eternity to develop all of those talents of ours to the glory of God... may as well be a mama now!=)

Sarah Osbun said...

Yesterday the students of CTS hosted a Faculty Disputation. Vocation was the topic selected. The Government side had to argue that vocation is not biblical and the Opposition had to argue that it is. The conclusion reached was that the Bible Calls two vocations: Pastors and Baptized. As the baptized, people live out their lives in Christian love as mothers, fathers, sons, etc. (They cited Bible verses, but I can't remember most of them.)

It was an interesting discussion, especially in light of your excellent post.

ekg said...

Pondering the winning of bread much in our household these days, especially in our non-church jobs. Identifying need vs. more than (or less than) is trickier than I expected when I was 16 or so. Especially tricky as these children keep appearing. Or perhaps it's just me who's doing the complicating.

Rebekah said...

Anon, God be with you as you figure it out. We had to do some crazy cobbling of work and schedules to get through. I can also vouch that that business they give you about how much students are "allowed" to work is ridiculous.

Sue, I also spent a lot of time thinking on Col. 3:23 while working jobs that made me miserable--and I never had stick with any of them longer than 6 months. :P

Sarah, interesting!

ekg, getting honest about needs and wants is never easy. The world has a stronger hold on us than we think.

Untamed Shrew said...

yeah...especially when the sem breaks their own rules with a particularly gifted student by asking him to teach Greek and Hebrew on top of being head of campus security.

Sue said...

Rebekah, only 6 mos.?! I'm going on 24 years, and the big bad wolf is coming in the form of even more furlough days, possibly pay cuts while starting to contribute to insurance and retirement fund. Lord have mercy! I know there is a reason God wants me where I am, I just wish he would share it with me...