Although God does not give most people a direct, individual, unmistakable call to a particular job or profession, God does give guidance to people in less dramatic forms, including Bible study, prayer, Christian community and individual reflection. Developing a general attentiveness to God’s guidance in life is beyond the scope of this article. But over the next three weeks we will look at three major considerations for discerning God’s vocational guidance:
The Needs of the World
The single strongest indicator of what God wants you to do is probably your awareness of what needs to get done to make the world more like what God intends. This doesn’t necessarily mean huge, global problems, but simply anything in the world that needs to be done.
Earning a living to support yourself and your family is one example mentioned in the Bible:
The good leave an inheritance to their children’s children. – Proverbs 13:22
The wise woman builds her house, but the foolish tears it down with her own hands. – Proverbs 14:1
Whoever does not provide for relatives, and especially for family members, has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever. – 1 Timothy 5:8
Let people learn to devote themselves to good works in order to meet urgent needs, so that they may not be unproductive. – Titus 3:14
Working so as to meet the needs of individuals around you besides your family is another biblical example:
Happy are those who are kind to the poor. – Proverbs 14:21
Aspire to live quietly, to mind your own affairs, and to work with your hands, as we directed you. – 1 Thessalonians 4:11
The crowds asked him, “What then should we do?” In reply he said to them, “Whoever has two coats must share with anyone who has none; and whoever has food must do likewise.” – Luke 3:10-11
A generous person will be enriched, and one who gives water will get water. – Proverbs 11:25
Then the king will say to those at his right hand, “Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.” – Matthew 25:34-36Working to serve the good of the larger society is also a biblical imperative:
Build houses and live in them; plant gardens and eat what they produce. Take wives and have sons and daughters; take wives for your sons, and give your daughters in marriage, that they may bear sons and daughters; multiply there, and do not decrease. But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the LORD on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare. – Jeremiah 29:5-7
Of course, it is impossible for you to meet every need of the world, so you have to narrow it down a bit. Start with needs for which you are personally responsible, such as raising your children or paying your debts. Beyond that, pay attention to needs that you are in a good position to meet, or that few other people are willing to address, or that you find especially pressing.
—For example, you might be in a good position to run for an elected office in your own city or town, compared to moving away to find work. On the other hand, you might be one of the few people willing to document human rights abuses in a country half way around the world. Or you might become convinced that teaching troubled youth is more pressing than joining a band. Moreover, it might become clear that something in your life other than your job or career is the most important way you are helping to meet the world’s needs. It would be pointless to get a job counseling troubled youth, only to neglect your own children.
The point is that God has given everyone the ability to recognize something of what the world needs. He seems to expect us to notice it and get to work, rather than waiting for a special call from him. However, there is no biblical formula for translating the needs of the world into a precise job calling. That’s why it’s best to seek God’s guidance in the various forms of discernment available to you.
Next week, we’ll look at considering your own skills and gifts as a means of discernment.
Excerpted from the Theology of Work Project’s eBook Calling: A Biblical Perspective.