For many of us, especially if committed to serving well in God’s kingdom work, potential or actual obsession with our station (i.e. occupational position) is a constant temptation. Cornelius Plantinga encourages controlling our work parameters wisely: “No matter what our primary occupation, we can’t let it become a preoccupation” (2002, 139). Our personal and communal lives ought to substantially exceed workplace limitations. Vocation is much broader than work, although the former includes the latter.
In “The Fabric of This World: Inquiries into Calling, Career Choice, and the Design of Human Work,” Lee Hardy reminds us that “work may be one thing that I am called to do, but it is not the only thing I am called to do” (1990, 111-12). Our other callings are significant and extensive. These may include regularly engaging in spiritual disciplines; loving and honoring our families and friends; actively participating and using our gifts in local ecclesial communities; contributing to justice and mercy in the church and culture; caring for and relating to others in various Christ-following ways; and much more.
Exemplifying a truly full-orbed, holistic approach to vocation, is Jesus, by way of his own earthly life. Indeed, his work was crucial, including to our own restored relationship with God. Yet his standard activities included substantial hours (daily, evidently) away from the pressing concerns of his itinerate ministry – even when the needs seemed urgent and endless. Our Lord likewise calls us to pray, fast, rest, build relationships and the like; such practices illustrate the wisdom and balance our lives must have for faithful, energetic and effective kingdom work. As Hardy notes, “Work, family, church, education, politics and leisure must each of them find their place, shoulder to shoulder, under the concept of vocation” (1990, 113).
How critical it is, then, to strike up a balance – to engage in the pursuit of wholeness – for one’s life and calling: vocationally and occupationally. The blessing and virtue of work are grounded in the love and generosity of our Creator/Redeemer. Yet the fall’s effects continually influence and skew the beauty and order of cultivating the creation. Therefore, we must heed the warning against the “virtue of hard work” becoming the “vice of workaholism.” In such cases, “the addiction of work as a source of affirmation needs to be broken by an encounter with a God of grace who can provide all that we need apart from our own effort, thereby freeing us for a life in pursuit of the righteousness of his kingdom” (Hardy, 1990, 117-18).
Blessings in Christ,