Calling vs. Kingdom in Finding Meaning in Work

Not every one gets to do the job they feel they are ultimately called to do. 

Even those who do, do not always do so all the time. This is one of the shortcomings of looking solely to one’s calling to find meaning in one’s work. 

Moses was a shepherd before he was a deliverer, Joseph a prison trustee before he was a ruler, and Nehemiah a cupbearer before he was a contractor. Yet no one would argue Moses was ultimately called to be a shepherd, nor Joseph a jailer, nor Nehemiah a cupbearer.

One of my summer jobs between my first and second year of law school was working for a telemarketing firm selling the New York Times. There was no uncertainty in my mind; I was not called to ultimately be a telemarketer. I wanted to be a lawyer. 

If you have ever worked in telemarketing, you understand how difficult it is. People hang up on you. People cuss you out for even calling. The first call I made the person hung up on me before I could even start my sales pitch. When I got off the phone I sat there for a few minutes thinking about what I might have done differently when the floor manager walked by and asked why I was not on the phone making the next call.

When I told him I had been hung up on and I was trying to figure out how I could lead into the call better, he just laughed. Everyone else was just punching a clock. He was punching a clock. They all saw no purpose in the project but a paycheck.

However, I did think about what I could have done differently, and I continued to refine my lead-in and pitch, and as I did I got better, and as I got better I sold more papers. God had a purpose for that job, namely to provide people with access to the news. I was part of that purpose, even though that purpose was ultimately not part of my calling. And had I been uncertain about my calling I could still have been certain about the kingdom purpose for the job I was performing at the time.

Additionally, I learned to always be thinking about how I could do my job better. It’s a lesson I have continually applied in my calling as a lawyer. In the same way, Moses’s humbling experience in Midian made him useful to God in humbling Pharaoh, and the skills Joseph learned managing inmates in an Egyptian jail made him useful as a manager in an Egyptian famine.

In summary, those who look to their calling for meaning may find it; those who look to the Kingdom can’t miss it. GS

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