The Definition of the Calling

There is a difference between a person’s job and their calling. The concept of the calling has been around in Christendom for a while. Here is a clear presentation of the differences between the two…

All Christians receive a general calling: “Therefore you should not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord, nor of me, his prisoner. Instead, suffer together for the gospel, according to the power of God. He is the one who has saved us and called us with a holy calling—not according to our works, but according to his own plan and grace, which he gave us in Christ Jesus before time began” (2 Timothy 1:8-9).

The Christian is called out of darkness and of a life of sin and into a life of grace and salvation through the Lord Jesus Christ. It is our general calling to be imitators of Christ, and to do all things, whether we eat or drink, to the glory of God (Col 3:23; 1 Cor. 10:31).

But individuals also have special callings to match their general calling. God gives all people different gifts and talents. There are many spiritual gifts that are not equally distributed to everyone (1 Cor. 12:8-10). The distribution of gifts leads to a variation in callings and professions (Eph. 4:11; 1 Cor. 12:28). Each member has a different function, and the Bible explains that this diversity is crucial to the overall health of the body. “For as the body is one and has many members, but all the members of the body, being many, are one body; so also is Christ…But now God has placed the members, each one of them, in the body just as he desired” (1 Cor. 12:12, 18).

Economically speaking, this is the origin of the division of labor in the economy. We are all called to service, to labor for God’s glory. But within that general call of service, people also specialize in certain areas. Some may become doctors who specialize in brain surgery. One biologist may specialize in immunology and the study of the human immune system, another in virology and the study of diseases. One electrical engineer may specialize in microchip fabrication, another in power distribution.


Likewise, within our general calling as Christians into a life in imitation of Christ, we have special callings within God’s kingdom. The calling is defined as “The most important thing you can do for the kingdom of God in which you would be most difficult to replace.”

Only rarely are a person’s job and calling the same thing. A pastor is a biblical example of such a situation in which job and calling align, because they serve God’s kingdom directly and are also entitled to a salary for doing their kingdom work (1 Tim. 5:17-18).

A person’s job, or occupation, is how they put food on the table. Most people use their jobs to fund their callings. That’s because the payment we receive for our callings is not usually material wealth. Payment for services rendered to God’s kingdom through our calling is usually in the form of treasures laid up in heaven (Mat. 6:19-21).

There is likely to be little demand for your calling while you are alive. It will benefit God’s kingdom in the long run, over time, but it may be long after you are gone. However, this is crucial work. It will have a lasting impact.


This is why we must understand how our job fits in and what its link is to our calling. Jesus taught that if we are responsible with a little bit, we will be entrusted with more (Mat. 25:21; Luke 16:10; 19:11-27). As we are entrusted with more, our responsibility increases. But we do not receive just added responsibility to go with our previous success with managing less–we are given greater wealth. That’s because wealth is a tool that helps us administer our calling.

As our performance on the job increases, starting from when we take an entry level job and work diligently to provide quality service and improve our skills, our income increases. We get raises. We get promoted. Promotions are ways to recognize our growing responsibility within any business organization.

But people can confuse greater wealth as the ends instead of a means. When wealth becomes the goal, then it has become an idol. Jesus called it “Mammon,” perhaps the greatest snare to a man’s soul (Mat. 19:24).

The solution is to recognize that God gives us wealth as a means to fund our calling. We first must tithe to God. Then, we are to take care of our families–besides tithing to God, that is the most important use of our wealth (1 Tim. 5:8).

As our productivity in our job grows, which will occur as we strive to be imitators of Christ at work, so will our wealth. This gives us greater means to fund our calling. We can use that money to buy tools we need to improve our calling. We can make donations to charities that align with our calling. We can also increase our savings to leave as an inheritance to our children–another important aspect of our general calling.


Christians can become disheartened in life when they get the feeling that their job has no meaning. They can get the impression their God-given talents are being under-utilized. This can crush a person’s spirit.

Recognizing the distinction between job and calling can help remedy this. That’s because our calling is more important than our job. Our God-given talents and spiritual gifts are intended primarily to serve our callings. They are given to serve us in our jobs to the extent that they help us increase our wealth and influence to extend our calling.