At the conference I am attending on the academic vocation, we talked today about a blind spot that occurs in many faith communities. In many of these we look at vocation only in terms of religious vocations or applying to those involved in spiritual ministries.
What is striking is that many of the academics I know see their work as a spiritual calling but often fail to hear any affirmation of this either in their institutions or in their faith communities. And it is not just academics. I’ve know people in the world of business, law, medicine and other fields who see their work as integral to being faithful to a spiritual calling. Sometimes they have been highly successful and impactful in this work. Sadly, in many cases the only affirmation they receive in faith communities is for how much money they contribute, but not for the work they do.
It’s not limited to academics and professionals. I’ve know plumbers and carpenters and electricians and many others who view their work as being “for God.” They seek to do quality work, deal honestly, and serve their customers.
One of our speakers asked the question of what it would mean if we wouldn’t simply feature the people in ministries or religious vocations or trumpet the big donors, but also celebrate the engineers and plumbers, lawyers and electricians, and all the others who are conscientiously offering the gifts of their work to God.
The apostle Paul wrote an early group of Christians saying, “And whatever you do,whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him” (Colossians 3:17). My sense is that “whatever” encompasses anything not specifically prohibited by the scriptures.
What would it mean if we broadened our sense of calling to encompass “whatever”? What if we honored the intrinsic value of the work people do, and not just what it is “good for”? What if we started affirming the 40 or more hours a week people spent in their workplaces as mattering to God, and not just the few hours they gave to church activity?