This question came up in my brief series on manhood last week: is it wrong for a responsible man to be a toymaker? Asked anonymously, this question prompted much thought on my part over the weekend. Here’s my own answer, though I of course do not propose this as the answer, merely the best I myself can give.
It strikes me that there are four categories a man must consider in deciding his vocation.
1. Self. A man must consider what talents and abilities he naturally possesses. He should think hard about what he likes doing and whether he is good at doing it. He should take care not to think lazily at this point. He should not merely direct himself to what he likes, but to the profession that allows him to best combine his talents and his preferences.
2. Family. A man should consider how his work will affect his family. He should choose a profession that will enable him to provide financial stability for his family. He should consider how much time a particular job will take him away from his family. It will likely be difficult at times to balance these factors–the need to provide versus the need to spend time with his family–but men can take comfort knowing that God has called them to be providers. However, it seems true that Christian men will often not be the employee who is able to do anything for his company. Christian men understand that their family comes first. All this has to be considered by a man entering the workforce, or preparing to do so.
3. Society. I think many Christians neglect this aspect of vocational consideration. We can so emphasize our citizenship in Christ’s kingdom that we neglect our God-given role in society. It is appropriate for Christian men to consider how the work they are doing will affect society. Believers should seek to positively contribute to society. This will mean carefully weighing potential jobs in order to determine which will best contribute positively to society, and which will make a greater difference to others in the long run. Oftentimes, this will mean passing up one good thing for another.
4. Kingdom. Christian men must consider how their work fits into kingdom advancement. We recognize that all that we do either advances or impedes the kingdom. Men must thus take into consideration whether their work not only contributes to society, but whether it contributes to the cause above all others, the cause of the extension of God’s glory over all the earth. Can we be a gospel witness in our profession? Can we pursue helping others over mere personal enrichment? There are no easy answers here, but men of God will wrestle with such questions in figuring these issues out.
There’s a very humble outline of the factors a man of God should consider in choosing his vocational direction. Tomorrow I’ll offer further comment on these matters.