Calling, stewardship, and consequence in our God-given vocations
Work is complicated. Many spend the first twenty or so years of life preparing for a career that can be stressful, discouraging, or, at times, addictive. Some hate having to get up and work while others never get enough of their idol. You do not need to know anything about what the Scriptures teach regarding vocation to want to thrive in the workplace. However, those who follow Christ will naturally want to have a sense of the Bible’s teaching on work. Our view of career and work will either model the secular view, or it will be in concert with what we learn from our Savior.
The Scriptures are written as a means of informing us about the nature of God and God’s redemptive work through Jesus Christ especially. The story of redemption begins in the first chapters of Genesis and ends with the book of Revelation. I find it fascinating that the introduction of this amazing story of redemption accents the theology of vocation or work.
The first chapter of Genesis is the account of God’s work of creation. It is a pattern for us regarding work. It is not a picture of an artist randomly splashing colors and objects on a canvas hoping something of value will appear. The work of creation was a master architect systematically carrying out his plan for the world and its universe. It was a work of great order that took place by God’s powerful word. That order is the basis of life which we experience everyday. God’s work of creation provides the background for his work of redemption.
In Genesis 2 we read the following:
"The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it. And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, “You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die" (Genesis 2:15-17).
Adam and Eve, who were both created in God’s image, were also given the work mandate. They were called to work. There is nothing secular about their agrarian culture or the responsibilities that defined their day. Consider three aspects of vocation that the Bible teaches us is true for all humans.
Calling. The call to work and its environment was given to them by God. They had title to nothing. We make the mistake of thinking that since we spent so many long years in school preparing for our careers that we own this part of life. Our very life and abilities are from God, so we must acknowledge him in this area of our life. We should view our career and work as a directive from God.
Stewardship. We are to function as grateful stewards when it comes to our work. Our careers do not belong to us. However, we are stewards of our work and must view our daily activity as one who has been given the privilege of caring for that which belongs to another. Sure, we are concerned with pleasing our boss or customers. But ultimately, we are concerned with pleasing our Lord and bringing to him the glory due to him alone.
Consequence. That our vocational call is from God, and that we go about our work as one who is serving another, implies that the fruit of such labor belongs to God. We are mistaken to think that the tithe given to the Lord is the portion that belongs to him while the rest belongs to us. When we place our trust in Christ and surrender to him we turn over all we are and have to him. The effort and fruit of our lives totally belong to our Lord.
The famous hymn by John Dykes, written in 1862, expresses well this understanding of what it means to view our lives and work as that which belongs to God:
“Take my life, and let it be consecrated, Lord, to thee. Take my moments and my days; let them flow in ceaseless praise.”
The early chapters of Genesis teach us that our work is a privilege. Those who work on Capitol Hill, whether it be elected members, their staff, or those who maintain the facilities and provide security, will be wise in adopting a biblical view of work. Such an understanding will not only affect the way they view their work but their worship as well.
Chuck Garriott is the founder and Executive Director of Ministry to State.