July 9, 2007

€œIt’€™s a Living!
By Pastor George Van Alstine

Do you have a job? A career? An occupation? A vocation? Just about everybody has something they do to sustain their lives and give them a role in society. How we view this function we fulfill can make a great deal of difference to our happiness and satisfaction.

“A job is a job.â€? This is a minimalist attitude toward the employment a person has. It sees work as something we just have to do to earn our keep. But we should be thankful we have a job—any job—when so many people are on the streets, homeless, living from hand to mouth. We should never disparage our work or others’ work, even if it seems not to be very highly respected. If we choose to see our work as important enough to give it our best effort, others will be inspired by our example.

“Occupationâ€? is a strange word we use to describe our work. Does it mean that we are just working to “occupyâ€? ourselves? Or does it mean that we are “occupyingâ€? time between punching in and punching out? The true meaning of that word is something more significant. We are occupying a particular role or function in a larger “machine,â€? a workforce, an office, a construction crew. This word emphasizes the fact that we are part of a team of mutually-dependent fellow-workers. We occupy our particular place and others occupy theirs.

A “careerâ€? is an overview of a person’s long-term work accomplishments. This word has some positive implications. First, it signifies that our work is going somewhere, leading to a goal, building toward something. Second, “careerâ€? indicates that we have an ability others don’t have, so that society values what we do. In the past, other words were used more commonly to describe this, such as craft, skill or trade. Sometimes we see a person’s career as defining the person, as in “my son the doctor.â€?

“Vocationâ€? is a unique word. It literally means “callingâ€? and originally was limited to religious applications. An individual was called by God to be a cleric or a bishop, or another kind of religious person. In the Middle Ages, if you said a person had a “vocation,â€? you probably meant he or she lived as a monk or nun.

But today we use the word “vocationâ€? to refer to every line of work, and I really like that. What a difference it can make if a baker feels called to make pies! The pies can be heavenly. If my auto mechanic saw his work as a vocation, a calling from God, I’d sure feel a lot better about leaving my car with him.

How do you see your work? Is it just a job? Or is it an occupation—part of a team in which you occupy your role? Do you feel you have a lifelong career? Or is your work—no matter how humble—a vocation, a calling from God?

Don’t answer this question by thinking about how others label your type of work. You can decide to label it any way you choose. You can decide today to upgrade the name you give your work. If you see it as a vocation, it will become a vocation.

If you make this choice, you’ll be surprised at how you feel when the alarm rings tomorrow morning. Your energy level will be increased, and you will be more likely to get to work on time. You’ll still have a smile on your face when you punch out. And what’s more, you’ll be a blessing to others all day long.