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Isn’t getting a job enough? Do I really need to have a career or a vocation?

In the Reformed tradition we talk a lot about vocation and the idea that God has a specific way for us to use our gifts to address the needs of the world. There is something good and holy about believing that God has given us a purpose and that we can participate in what God is doing to restore the world.

It is easy to assume that career and vocation are the same, especially when some people stay in the same job all their lives. Yet few people entering the workforce today will keep the same job their whole lives. Does this mean our understanding of vocation should change?

We should be careful not to define vocation too narrowly. Instead, it is better to look at all the parts of your life—work, studies, hobbies, participation in church, connection to family and friends, use of money—and then ask: How do you honor God in every one of these areas? And how can you give glory to God not just in the future but also right now, in whatever life stage or situation you’re in? Our primary vocation is to love God and our neighbor, and that’s hard to do if we focus only on the future and ignore the people who surround us now.

Perhaps for now a job is indeed enough, especially if a specific job allows you to live out the call to serve God faithfully in all of your life. Preparing for a career is also good: God delights in our investment of time and effort to develop skills and knowledge to better serve God and others. At the same time, if you’re considering a change in job or career, you do not need to worry that you’re abandoning your vocation or even that you understood your vocation wrongly. Vocation is not something you figure out once; it is instead something you keep asking God about as you continue your journey and as your experiences in life shift.

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