Vocation as Calling
2 Thessalonians 1:11 “We always pray for you, asking that God will make you worthy of his call.” Yesterday one of our lay preachers at church gave a great sermon on identity, and it got me thinking, reading and praying about my biggest false source of identity, my vocation. The root of the word vocation comes from Latin for “voice”, which demonstrates that a vocation is something that we are called to. What that calling meant to believers in different periods has changed dramatically over time. In the early church, a child had no choice on his professional future because he inevitably learned the same craft his father did. Also, Christians represented a minority of the population and often risked torture for their beliefs, so the concept of a “calling” really had nothing to do with work, and everything to do with “should I believe in Jesus and if so, how public should I be about it?” Then Constantine made Christianity the state religion of the Roman empire, and a new problem emerged as people could actually get ahead by becoming a Christian. How could one preserve the idea that being a believer had a cost? For the next thousand years the concept of a “calling” came to be associated with becoming a monk or a nun, leaving family and living a life of self-denial. In the 1500’s, the structure of the economy changed as industry developed and people had more control over their professional future. With this shift came Martin Luther’s idea of “the priesthood of all believers.” Pastors started getting married, and Christians came of the view that God could call to cloth, but also to the factory floor or to civil service. And with this came the idea that your calling was your job. Today the structure of society again is shifting rapidly, with more flexible work and family arrangements than we’ve ever seen. Millennials increasingly forego jobs to engage in the gig economy, and longer life spans mean more of life happens after retirement. In this context, it seems dangerous to place our “call” as entirely on our work. Also, for the first time since the early church, we live an environment where Christians are not the majority and being a believer doesn’t necessarily get you ahead in life. One author noted that in this context, the original question of “should I believe in Jesus, and if so how public should I be about it?” might be more relevant now than it’s been for 1500 years. Despite working on the riskiest asset class in all of financial services, I can say that “coming out” on my faith (with this daily devotional and vlogs that quotes scripture) has felt far riskier than anything I’ve ever done at work. Dear God, I guess there’s no one right way of viewing my calling. I do believe you’ve called me to do the work I’m doing, but more importantly, I know you’ve called me into a deep and intimate relationship with you. Thank you for the privilege! In your son’s name, Amen.