Called to Work?
“Only let each person lead the life that the Lord has assigned to him, and to which God has called him. This is my rule in all the churches.”~ 1 Corinthians 7:17
Do you sometimes find yourself too obsessed with your job?
Sometimes we are tempted to define ourselves by our work, allowing our status to be determined by the particular job we have. The thinking goes like this: the better paid the job, the better the status. Although as Christians, we may not care much about status, we often unconsciously still believe in a kind of Christian ‘job significance’ ladder. On that ladder, it is not how much you earn that puts you on the highest rung of the ladder, but what kind of job you do. We may believe that the Christian elite are special: people who have a ‘calling’. We may think that ‘called’ workers are the ones that sit on the top of the Christian ladder. For the rest, it is tempting to feel I am less valuable, because I do not have the same ‘calling’.
What is our ‘calling’?
But what does the Bible say about calling? In 1 Corinthians 7:17, Paul writes “Only let each person lead the life that the Lord has assigned to him, and to which God has called him”. In this verse, the word ‘to’ may better be translated as ‘in’. In other words, the emphasis is not so much what God has called us ‘to’ but what God has called us ‘in’. It is assuring to know that God calls all Christians, regardless of their present circumstances. Often when we think of ‘calling’, we think that God calls people to a particular job. But that is never the Bible’s understanding of ‘calling’.
In 1 Corinthians, Paul gives us a helpful guide to understanding what ‘calling’ really means. Paul writes the letter to “those sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints together with all those who in every place call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Corinthians 1:2). Notice, Paul addresses all Christians as those ‘called’ to be saints, that is, called to be part of God’s holy people. Similarly in 1:9, Paul reminds the Corinthians that they were “called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord” (1 Corinthians 1:9).
According to these verses, God calls Christians to be in fellowship with his son Jesus Christ. This same invitation is open to anyone who would call upon the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. God doesn’t call some to mighty works while he leaves others ‘un-called’ in some form of meaningless work. What matters is whether have we responded to God’s gospel call by turning to the Lord Jesus for salvation.
We are assigned to our workplace so that others might hear the gospel
Returning to 1 Corinthians 7:17, we note that God has assigned each of us to a certain place. Paul writes, “Only let each person lead the life that the Lord has assigned to him, and to which God has called him. This command echoes Acts 17:26-27, where Paul explains to the Athenians that history has been deliberately arranged that people might seek God and come into relationship with him. It is this gospel calling to faith in Christ, which is our Lord’s priority and it is in the context of this gospel calling that we are to understand our work. Wherever we may work, we are placed there by God that our colleagues and friends may hear the gospel of salvation from us. That is our purpose at work.
In 1 Corinthians 7, Paul warns Christians not to not get out of their jobs to enter a Christian ghetto or holy huddle. Rather, he instructs them, “in whatever condition each was called, there let him remain with God” (1 Corinthians 7:24). Ultimately, all Christians are ‘full-time missionaries’ in their workplace, who are to announce the gospel of Christ to their colleagues. After all, it. is the Lord’s desire for “all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Timothy 2:4). God has assigned us all to a mission field, that we tell others of Christ.
Whenever we are tempted to become obsessed with our job or identify our status with our work, we must be reminded of our true calling: to be in fellowship with Christ through the gospel. As those called into fellowship with Christ, we are to live out the Christian faith in our workplace and share our faith so that others may also call on Christ and be saved. We are to consider how our gifts and opportunities can be used for gospel work in the workplace.
A new purpose and status in Christ
If we think that our job is menial and unimportant, or if we are unemployed, a home worker or housebound, a right understanding of calling is liberating. Our work is not what gives us status or significance. It is the gospel of Christ.
If we have many titles behind our name and sit in powerful boardrooms, we must not let these things give us a false sense of status and significance. Our work is not what gives us status or significance. It is the gospel of Christ.
The gospel gives us a new purpose and new status at work. In Christ, we have the greatest status of all: we are children of God. This status does not depend on what work we do, or what position we have. We do not need to prove ourselves through our work. Instead, we can focus on the greatest work of all: telling people about Jesus. This is the “work of the Lord”(1 Corinthians 15:58) which all Christians are to abound in. There is great urgency for us to get on with that work, for it too has a deadline. As Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 7:29-31:
29 This is what I mean, brothers: the appointed time has grown very short. From now on, let those who have wives live as though they had none, 30 and those who mourn as though they were not mourning, and those who rejoice as though they were not rejoicing, and those who buy as though they had no goods, 31 and those who deal with the world as though they had no dealings with it. For the present form of this world is passing away.
Judgement day is coming. We need to get on with our gospel work with urgency, to prepare the world for that day. Understanding our true calling, will help us to maintain our proper focus.
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Gary is currently attending The Crossing Church in Singapore and was previously a member of St Mary’s Cathedral, Kuala Lumpur. He is an engineer by profession and has a passion for seeing the gospel upheld and proclaimed in the workplace. He desires to see Christians find their identity and rest in Jesus Christ, whether in the workplace, home, neighbourhood, school or church.
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