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I've tried to phrase this question several ways now, and none of them are really to my liking. I will just ask it clumsily and provide more details as they are asked of me.

Does God ever call people to lives devoted to their careers?

For example, suppose someone says to himself "God has called me to forego starting a family in favor of devoting my life to being the best dog groomer I can be." I choose a particularly strange career on purpose. The work of a doctor and the work of a dog groomer is equally meaningless if it is not blessed by God. I suppose my question, therefore, is whether there is precedent that God asks for and accepts such a life, or whether this hypothetical dog groomer is deluding himself.

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Welcome to Christianity.SE. This is an interesting first question! +1 –  Richard Nov 22 '11 at 15:09
    
You might be interested in the book The Lay Ministry Revolution: How You Can Join. It talks in depth about this topic. I don't know that it addresses the "career instead of family" question, though. (Disclaimer: I'm the son of the one of the authors) –  Flimzy Nov 22 '11 at 18:24
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Cue obligatory Steven Curtis Chapman song –  Peter Turner Nov 22 '11 at 20:12
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4 Answers 4

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There is no specific Biblical precedent for such a claim - at least not in your example. But there is also no Biblical reason to refute such a claim, either. (Unless the claim is a direct contradiction of clear Biblical teaching.)

The Scriptures give examples of people called to be Prophets, Evangelists, Pastors, and Preachers (Ephesians 4:11) and other ministries that directly serve God, or God's purpose. He has also ordained Kings. (Saul and David, for example).

Nowhere in Scripture is anyone specifically called to be a baker, a server, or other secular job.

There is validity and Biblical precendent in a claim to a career serving God as a Missionary, for example, or a Pastor, Priest, or other Church official. We are all called to serve God in one way or another, and most traditions believe that God specifically calls people into positions of authority, such as those mentioned previously. Exactly how they are called, and how they can be sure is likely the subject for a different question, as it varies based on factors such as denomination, interpretation of Scripture, and tradition.

However...

The Bible does tell us that no matter what our career is, we should do it "as unto the Lord", meaning that we should do our best as if we were working for God Himself. Several examples of those serving honorably doing ordinary (secular) tasks and jobs do abound. The woman at the Well giving water, for example, or the people called to feed the hungry, fight in the battles, serve their masters. Being a good servant is a basic Christian principle, and is both commanded and honored in Scripture.

To answer your comment, it is entirely possible that God does call us to serve in secular jobs. God is, after all, sovereign. God alone knows where the line is between His sovereignty, and the free will He allows us.

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Thank you for your answer. I have one follow-up question: "Nowhere in the Bible is anyone specifically called to serve in an 'ordinary' job." So are the many people working such jobs failing to see a higher calling, or is their lot in life simply to be fruitful and multiply? –  user1014 Nov 22 '11 at 5:38
    
I hear your answer. Let me propose a slightly less silly example career. Suppose a young scientist devotes his life to the study of chemistry. On the face of it, this is a totally secular career. However, his studies result in the creation of a cheap and effective treatment for some terrible disease which is transported by missionaries to countries in need. The hope provided by the medicine makes the inhabitants receptive to the message of salvation. Surely, it must be said that the chemist's work furthered the kingdom of God, and so it is feasible that God may have called him to that life. –  user1014 Nov 22 '11 at 6:08
    
(I apologize if my tone seems argumentative - I certainly do not intend it.) –  user1014 Nov 22 '11 at 6:08
    
Ecclesiastes 9:7-10, while given in the pessimistic phrasings of that book, does touch on a few of your points. –  Muke Tever Nov 22 '11 at 13:57
    
Edited drastically to remove long rambling pointless chatter, yet still retaining the original intent of the answer. –  David Stratton Nov 23 '11 at 4:48
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@DavidStratton makes a good case about how God can use our ordinary jobs for his kingdom. I would have quoted Colossians 3:23 myself.

I'll just note that there are many churches/organizations that teach pretty much what you asked about. One good example is Opus Dei, a Catholic organization. Opus Dei teaches that every Christian is called to follow Jesus Christ, sanctifying their ordinary life. Especially family life and work are taught to be areas where we can commit our lives to God. This teaching is apparently largely based on the Second Vatican Council (but I'm no Catholic theologian).

Many Protestant organizations have similar teachings about worshipping through committing to our secular work, but I can't name any really major ones.

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(This answer comes from a Reformed Protestant perspective)

As Christians we have two callings. The college I went to liked to call them the "big C" Calling and the "little c" calling.

Your "big C" Calling is the calling to a life and ministry in Christ. This is the call to follow Christ and to serve him.

Your "little c" calling is whatever vocation you are called to. Sometimes these callings intersect (vocational ministry like the pastorate or the missions field or something like that), but they don't have to (secular work like being a doctor, a dog groomer or a programmer).

Another phrase that came up occasionally was "extraordinary callings in ordinary places." Here is how our president explained it:

The principal point of the phrase is to remind us of the primary way in which God has from the beginning accomplished his redemptive and reviving work in the world: through the faithful, day-by-day, most often mundane work of his people, most often in “ordinary” places and through “ordinary” means, as by his mercy and provision they fulfill the extraordinary callings to which he has called them.

The fact of the matter is that not everyone is called to vocational ministry and we can be just as worshipful in our dog grooming and programming and doctoring as a pastor is in his work. There are still opportunities to minister to people both in your work and in your life.

If everyone was a full time pastor then there would be no one to work to support the church financially and there would be no one to reach people who wouldn't listen to two words from a pastor. We are called to do everything we do for the glory of God (1 Corinthians 10:31). Sometimes its a mundane place that makes for an extraordinary calling.

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Their is no reason to think we cannot serve God in which ever trade we do. I would like to think as a business student that one day when I'm a Chartered Accountant I will be doing the lords work in my own way by running a business responsibly.

This will make certain that the people who work at the institutions livelihoods are safe. It can even create a few new jobs and with that uplifting a few lives.

I think that every person can make his or her contribution towards the bettering of their communities irregardless of the profession.

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