Choosing an Occupation

By Jady W. Copeland

A basic principle from the time God drove Adam and Eve from the garden has been that a man provide for his family (Gen. 3:19). By the “sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread” and as divine revelation unfolds, we see that the head of the family was to provide for his own (1 Tim. 5:14).

When Jesus was on earth he taught another principle that needs our attention at this time, and that passage is found in John 6:27. “Do not labor for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to everlasting life which the Son of man will give you, because God the Father has set his seal on him” (NKJ). Jesus had miraculously fed the 5000 and from this, along with the miracle of walking on the water, it is understandable that they sought him and many followed him. Then Jesus makes the above statement which gives us to this day a lot of “food” for thought. Is he saying they were not to work for a living? No, but he is contrasting the value of working for daily bread and working for “food which endures to everlasting life” and only Jesus can supply that “food” (in. 6:27,53-56).

Now with the above principle in mind, we see a direct application to our theme possessed by possessions. Eating of the bread of life (by imbibing the teachings of Christ) is more important than physical bread as one keeps us alive for perhaps 70-80 years, while the other gives us eternal life. This of course doesnt mean earning our bread here is unimportant; but it does mean it is of lesser importance than working for the bread that brings eternal life. It is a contrast. In this whole series, we have been showing that the eternal is more important than the temporal.

As young people grow into adulthood, they face the great challenge of choosing a vocation. Somehow they must fulfill the great responsibility of providing for their family. Shall it be self-employment, or shall I work for wages? For what am I best suited, mentally, physically and psychologically? But too many fail to consider the most important question in choosing a vocation  namely, what vocation will allow me to best serve Christ? Counselors in schools usually do not ask that question. But parents, as they train their children to make their way in this life, need to counsel them in this most important area. Sure, we need to guide them as to what they can do best and like best  whether physical labor, or otherwise. But they need to realize there may be many areas in which they can make a good living, but there is only one way to heaven and that is zealous and faithful service to God. And if the occupation prevents me from serving God in the best possible way, then I will have chosen a work that cheats me out of my best service in the kingdom.

After all what will it matter if I leave much to my children, or if I leave nothing? (The latter may be better for them.) What does it matter if I am a doctor or a teacher as long as I am serving God with all my heart and soul? It matters much if I have an occupation that will not allow me to have time to teach the lost, visit the sick, relieve the depressed, comfort the broken-hearted and encourage the wayward. Let us not be “possessed by our possessions” so that we will have no time for his work. Many a man has wasted his talents (as an elder, deacon, song leader and personal worker) because he “didnt have time”  his job would not allow it.

Some Guiding Principles

Is it morally right? Little time need be spent here. Surely all who read this will realize they couldnt choose gambling, selling liquor, prostitution or other occupations that are of themselves immoral. And some occupations demand dishonesty, and some have found that they had to leave certain vocations because of this.

Will it prevent me from worshipping God? Zeal, fellowship with God and other Christians and love demands that 1 worship on the Lords day to remember the death of Christ, etc. Will the vocation I choose prevent this? If so, pick another. Though there may be exceptions (as I heard of in one case) it would seem to me that being a professional athlete (at least in some sports) would prevent me from worshipping God on the first day of the week. Some occupations prevent the person from meeting every Sunday. I would question this very seriously. Strength in him and his cause depends to a large extent on the encouragement and help I get from worshipping with the saints (Heb. 10:24). Parents, guide your children toward vocations where they can grow to their greatest height in the kingdom and teach them that to do less is not good spiritually.

Will it allow me to reach my greatest potential in the kingdom? Will it allow me to do my best for Christ? Life here is temporary; we are but pilgrims; eternity is certain so why should not we choose the work that is best adapted to achieving the greatest good for him who died for us? If he gave his best for me, why should I give second best for him? Perhaps many potentially good preachers have chosen secular work. But I am thinking more of others who choose occupations which take them away from home much of the time. Many times congregations are robbed of good teachers because they are away so much. Had they chosen an occupation where they had weekends off, they could have been a much greater influence for good on their peers and the young generation if they had been home more  and been able to teach in the local church. Many churches have been rob-bed of potentially good elders because they arent home enough to serve. In congregations where Ive been we had good teachers, but couldnt use them because they were gone too much. This is not only true of men, but often it is true of ladies as well. (We will get to working mothers later.)

It is certainly important for one to choose a vocation to which he is best suited mentally, emotionally and physically. But it is even more important to choose work that will allow him to save souls, influence brethren for good and do many other things to build up the kingdom. If I had a youngster in his formative years, I would not encourage him to be a salesman who had to be gone from home too much. I would not encourage him to be a fireman who had to miss many services on a regular basis. I would not encourage him to be a politician where he is tempted in so many ways. I would not encourage him to be a professional musician that is a performer as this certainly does not lend itself to faithfulness in Christ. And while it is true that in most professions, one can manage to worship on Sunday, and do some work for the Lord, why not pick one where the best work possible can be done?

As in every phase of the life of a Christian, choosing a lifes work is a matter of priorities. Jesus set forth the greatest principle in Matthew 22:37 when he said that the greatest commandment was “love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind” If this guiding principle is firmly planted in the mind of a child from birth, he should have no problem in choosing a work that would allow him to do his best in serving God and his fellow man. God did not give us the privilege of setting the priorities in life. He only gave us the choice as to whether or not we want to serve him. When I deliberately choose an occupation that will not allow me to do my best in his kingdom, I have made a great (probably fatal) mistake. Of course many have already chosen their work before becoming Christians. In that case they have to do the best they can or change professions. But if you are a parent reading this and still have time to guide your children in the proper direction, please don fail them (and the Lord) by neglecting to teach them in this regard. Souls hang in the balance  perhaps their own and the ones they could teach, What a shame to waste so much great talent in the kingdom of God simply because someone was possessed by their possessions” and chose an occupation with “things” in mind instead of God. Think on these things; the Bible

Guardian of Truth XXXVII: 14 p. 10-11
July 15, 1993