by Mark Host
We generally think of our job as something that belongs to the secular world. It is part of that “other” world in which we exist apart from our spiritual and church lives. It is common to think of our vocation as something we must do to meet our worldly needs: a paycheck, and with it the resources to purchase food, clothing, shelter, and luxuries. The idea that our job is somehow a part of this other life we live stems directly from the secular idea that one’s job does not define one’s self. In a feel-good world that focuses on the self, people feel they need such distinctions in order to cope with a job which they understand they need, but which they may not want. Yet this is simply another attempt at creating a worldview that suits what people want to believe, instead of changing our perspective towards the Truth of what is. That latter sounds hard, and it can be, but that does not mean that it needs to be unpleasant. Far from it. As the late Fr. Hopko put it, “… all vocations are ‘religious.’”
There are many possible ways to understand this idea. First and foremost, it is important that we always remember that we are the only Bible that many people will ever read. When we say that we are Christians, what that means is that we represent Christ and His Church. How we conduct ourselves often becomes what people understand Christianity to mean. If we conduct ourselves poorly or under-perform at our job, then this reflects poorly on God. If we do well, then this reflects positively on God. If we go the extra mile to help out a co-worker, and don’t gloat on a job well done by us, but rather give that up to God and do it humbly as an act of service, then we glorify God by doing so. This is what the Gospels mean when they tell us, “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:16). When we are humble and have our hearts and minds oriented towards God in our vocation, then we can understand how our vocation is a ministry. Let others see your diligent work and praise God.
Regardless of one’s vocation, it is possible to use it for the greater Glory of God. The CEO of a company has the well-being of every employee and their families in his or her care. How the CEO executes their job has a direct impact on the lives of those under his or her care. It’s easy to understand how this can be stewardship. Yet even a dishwasher can make his or her vocation meaningful beyond the immediacy of earning a paycheck. Cleaning dishes properly can have a direct impact on the health and safety of the customers who use them. How conscientiously the dishwasher executes his or her job also matters. Wastefulness or theft is often visited upon all employees, as the employer often recoups those losses through lower wage increases and reductions in benefits. So each person can be the caretakers of those made in the image of Christ in some way. So we must each be conscientious in our vocations, “And whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men” (Colossians 3:23).
Fr. Hopko writes that, “All are called to be saints…” Not everyone is called to do this in the same way. We need to shed secular ideas of what is important and not important work. As Fr. Hopko points out:
“Some will sanctify their lives being married; others will be single. Some will do it in clerical orders; others as lay people. Some will be monastic; most will live in the everyday secular world. Some will work primarily in a physical way, others will work intellectually. Some will be artists, scientists, business people, professionals. Others may have no particular job or profession. And some may be called simply to suffer, while others, in terms of this world, will hardly suffer at all.”
What is left for us to do is accept the calling to which God has guided us, and in so doing, use that vocation – whatever it is – for His greater Glory.
So here are a few questions to ponder:
- Have you asked yourself how you can use your vocation towards God’s greater Glory, instead of only towards a greater paycheck?
- Do you give your time at work to God as well as to your employer?
- How can you be a better example for those around you?
 Hopko, Thomas. “Finding One’s Vocation in Life.” Orthodox Church in America. 1996. Web. 23 March 2016.
Mark Host is a member of St. Vladimir’s Ukrainian Orthodox Cathedral in Parma, OH. He works in IT, teaches college English on the side, and is planning to return to school in 2017 to pursue his PhD.