Work, call, vocation, and purpose

By Zaneta Lim, Bethel Seminary San Diego

What do you think about when you hear the word work? What is work? Why do we have to work? And how do we work?

If we take a moment to really think about this, we may have varying answers, responses or pictures that come to mind. When we think about work and the working individual, it’s easy to think of individuals working as a doctor, lawyer, engineer, or high-level executive with prestige and wealth.  We also think of those in restaurants and stores providing customer service to their customers. We don’t necessary think of the pastor or ministry leader in church, or the mom or dad who stays at home to raise their minor children or care for their sick parents or disabled child. We don’t think of the garbage person who comes to collect our trash once a week or so, nor the individuals who come to collect the grease from the grease traps at restaurants. There are jobs people consider to be significant and those with less significance. The reason for this has to do with impact and the number of contributions one person makes.

In a society that values an individual on what they do for a living and how much they make, it is difficult to see the significance in some of the “menial” work some individuals do to contribute to society as a whole. Most individuals do not consider the impact a parent makes on a child when they stay home with the child to raise them and to spend time with them so that they become a functional and valuable member of society. The cost of living in some American cities has become so high and inflated due to the industries that dominate certain cities that many households in America require two incomes to just provide their families with a roof over their head, clothes on their backs, and food on their table. What is a different view of the purpose and need for work and how can this information change our lives?

To get a better understanding, we can turn to the Bible to get a better idea of what God intended work to be. The first chapters of the Bible in Genesis show us how God created the world we live in now. He spent six days to create the world and everything in it, and it was created good and perfect, then on the seventh day God rested. God’s creation comes with order and purpose and man and woman are made in his image. With Adam and Eve’s sin of eating from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, the ground is cursed and man is told that it would be through his toil that he would live off the land. Even to this day we see the toiling between work and man and the impacts of sin on our lives. With the difficulties of work, people start to think about themselves and their own livelihoods and what they can do to either make more, to have more, and to spend more. People never seem to have enough regardless of what people do or make. Individuals are working longer hours and spending more of their time at home focusing on their work. Their motivation is to make more so they can have more. We continue to see the toiling and sweat required to live our lives, but there is another way. As Christians we are to live our lives in a way that allows those around us to see Jesus Christ.

As men and women, we are created in the image of God. As image bearers we are to live like God’s children on earth. We have been placed here to serve a purpose and to emanate our Creator to the world. How do we do this? We need to realize that as children of God, we need a kingdom mindset, not a temporary mindset that fulfills and meets our current worldly needs and desires. We need to look at our varying gifts and our resources and ask ourselves and God what we can do with them. Why have we been gifted with these talents and treasures?

An individual may be called to work in a secular workplace, a non-profit, in the church as a pastor or in ministry, or one may be called to stay at home and care for family and children. Regardless of what calling one has on their life, we are all being called to serve a function for a purpose. Whether the calling is continuous or temporary, we are created with the capabilities and abilities to fulfill this calling, but only if we are willing.

We may go through differing seasons as we go about life, where one may be in school for a time, then working at a business for an employer, then we may find ourselves going back to school to continue our education. Our new education may than lead us to ministry or a non-profit or back into the secular workplace. Some may become a parent and we may need to stay home to care for a child or stay home to care for ailing parents or family members. During any of these times, we may feel like we need to be doing something else to either provide for ourselves or our families better or in a different way than we are currently. When in school we may think that we also need to be working when in reality we should be focusing and dedicating our time to our studies to become the best professional or minister we are training to become. As a stay at home parent, we may feel that we need to go out and work to help with paying the bills and to send our children to the best school or to give them the best things money can buy.

When we find ourselves in these situations, we need to take a moment to reassess our current situation and to bring our focus back to what God wants for our lives. We can see what our idols are and what our hearts and our minds are wanting for ourselves or we can continue on the trajectory we are on and possibly end up on a different path than we were created for. Even then God is able to use all of our experiences and all of our decisions to use us for his greater purpose in this world.

We also need to remember that not everyone is created to fulfill the same functions. If everyone served the same functions there would be a lot left undone. We need the different functions of society to be performed for our community to run and function – we need the teacher, counselor, policeman, judge, attorney, garbage collector, politician, doctor, cook, barista, and stay at home parent, to list a few. Without these individuals with separate jobs and duties, everyone would have to do everything, or some things would just never get done.

So I’m curious: What is your calling, your vocation, and your purpose on this earth, and how are you going to live a life that allows you to function at your highest capacity as a child of God? What other tools would you need to take the next step?


Hewitt, B. & Moline, J. (2015). Your new money mindset: Create a healthy relationship with money. Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.

Keller, T. & Alsdorf, K. L. (2012). Every good endeavor: Connecting your work to God’s work. New York, NY: Riverhead Books.

Sherman, A. L. (2011). Kingdom calling: Vocational stewardship for the common good. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

Image © Negative Space |

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