Vocation Topical Study

Preaching and Worship Resources about Vocation

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In Christian understanding, a person's vocation is his or her calling from God — first, to be a prime citizen of the kingdom of God, and then to any number of sub-callings within the first calling.

In Scripture

"God blessed [the man and the woman], and God said to them, `Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it; and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the air and over every living thing that moves upon the earth'" (Gen. 1:28).

"Now the Lord said to Abram, `Go from your country and your kindred and your father's house to the land that I will show you'" (Gen. 12:1).

"Take good care to observe the commandment and instruction that Moses the servant of the Lord commanded you, to love the Lord your God, to walk in all his ways, to keep his commandments, and to hold fast to him, and to serve him with all your heart and with all your soul" (Josh. 22:5).

"O give thanks to the Lord, call on his name, make known his deeds among the peoples. Sing to him, sing praises to him; tell of all his wonderful works" (Ps. 105:1 - 2).

"Hate evil and love good, and establish justice in the gate" (Amos 5:15).

"He has told you, O mortal, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?" (Mic. 6:8).

"[S]trive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness" (Matt. 6:33).

"As Jesus was walking along, he saw a man called Matthew sitting at the tax booth; and he said to him, `Follow me.' And he got up and followed him" (Matt. 9:9).

"And Jesus came and said to them, `All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age'" (Matt. 28:18 - 20).

"Jesus came to Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God, and saying, `The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news'" (Mark 1:14 - 15).

"Consider your own call, brothers and sisters: not many of you were wise by human standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong" (1 Cor. 1:26 - 27).

"[L]et each of you lead the life that the Lord has assigned, to which God called you" (1 Cor. 7:17).

"For we are what he has made us, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand to be our way of life" (Eph. 2:10).

"But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God's own people, in order that you may proclaim the mighty acts of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light" (1 Pet. 2:9).

"Like good stewards of the manifold grace of God, serve one another with whatever gift each of you has received" (1 Pet. 4:10).

Points to Ponder

People often use "vocation" to mean their paid occupation — "I'm a house painter by vocation," for example. Their other principal pastimes or hobbies are then avocations. But not every Christian always has a paid occupation. Yet they do have callings — to have dominion, to go where God leads them, to give thanks, to do justice and love kindness, to keep God's commands, to follow Jesus, to make good works our way of life, to seek first the kingdom of God.

A Christian's biggest calling All these sub-callings fit snugly inside what we might describe as a Christian's biggest calling: to be a faithful citizen of the kingdom of God, or even an enthusiastic citizen — a prime citizen. That is, a Christian's calling is to think, speak, and act in ways that accord with God's kingly rule and to contribute to building shalom, or, in New Testament terms, to the ultimate coming of the kingdom at the end.

So Christians pray "Your kingdom come" and then work in the same direction as they pray. After all, "Your kingdom come" means "Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven." A prime citizen of the kingdom will contribute heavily to this cause. She doesn't merely endorse justice in the world; she hungers and works for it. She doesn't merely reject cruelty; she hates and fights it. She wants God to make things right in the world, and she wants to enroll in God's project as if it were her own. She "strives first for the kingdom" in order to act on her passion.

Christians follow their calling to strive for the kingdom of God in any way that contributes to the betterment of the world — by being a lively and contributing member of the church and her ministries, yes, but also by striving for just governance, by voting intelligently, by praying for leaders faithfully, and by paying taxes willingly even if not cheerfully.

Occupations may play an important role within a Christian's main vocation, but only to the extent that they actually contribute to it.

Seeking the interests of the kingdom Christians follow their main vocation by playing a lively part in institutions and endeavors that, consciously or not, seek the interests of the kingdom. Of these the church is first, but others — including governments, businesses, professions, and non-profit service organizations — are crucial as well. So are families. If they work right, families become a microcosm of the kingdom of God, incubating us in faith, hope, and love, schooling us in patience, supplying us with memories good enough to take out of storage on a lonely night. Families can give us our first lessons in meshing our kingdoms with others. They can fill us with delight, especially when they contain sunny, unspoiled toddlers.

Christians pursue a wonderful array of sub-vocations To follow their main vocation of serving the kingdom of God, Christians pursue a wonderful array of sub-vocations. They sing, pray, and hand each other the body and blood of Christ. They rejoice with those who rejoice and weep with those who weep. They fight against evil, but also fly kites and bake bread. As part of their vocation they absorb good books and good music. They work, but also rest from work in order to make a space in which to long for God. Some of them join volunteer groups that turn rails to trails, or that assist flood victims, or that paint somebody's house. In an emergency, an adult Christian might spend herself for a friend who is dying — sitting with her, praying with her, encouraging her, seeing to some of her needs. This isn't a job that appears on any government list of occupations, but it is a calling of God, and it is surely a contribution to the kingdom of God.

Too many Christians believe in their vocation too narrowly. It is actually vast and deep. Pursuing it may be thought of as a life's adventure.

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Scripture quotations are from New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright 1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.