(The following is the final in a three-part series on the question of career versus vocation – a key distinction parents need to help their students wrestle with as they consider future education and life goals. This series is authored by Todd J. Wedel, Veritas Classical Academy Grammar School principal and Rhetoric School teacher.)
Such an emphasis on the “weak things” may raise an objection, that to seek a position of prominence is what we should desire, the chance to influence civilization and culture. Indeed, those are noble and godly goals, but the means and mindset matter—a godly end if pursued for a selfish reason ceases to be a godly end.
If we are career-minded, we desire a position to institute change. Our thinking runs something such as, “If I were but to be in such a position, I would. . .” Inherent in this reasoning are two subtle dangers. The first is that I am inevitably judging the person who occupies the position I would attain. I desire his or her removal. And I believe that I can know what to do and what I would do without knowing all that that person endures, thinks of, processes, deals with, and is.
The second is that I believe that it is through position that God changes the world. But get the right people in the right positions, and the world becomes what we would want it to be. We devise a formula for redemption and reconciliation, and, we maintain, if this formula is fulfilled, there is no need for God, for it is a matter of the great “I” doing what I would do that the world will be changed not a matter of the great “I AM” doing through me or through another what only He can do.
We forget that Paul reminds us that not many were called who were strong or wise or of measure in the world, though not many does mean a few, but that it is those apparently weak and foolish and negligible whom God desires and uses, that it is He who calls into being what has not been; He has no need of us, but is pleased to use His people to participate in His work. And He can use men and women of mean position to accomplish high purposes.
It is instructive to ponder here two examples of men of great position, Joseph and Daniel. Their stories are greatly parallel—both taken from their homeland, both cast into darkness and dungeon, both rescued because of gifts given and opportunities created by God, both raised to positions of power and authority, both used for the good of God’s people. Both are certainly gifted, but it is not their gifts that gain power and authority. Had not pharaoh and Nebuchadnezzar both had dreams from God, both would have languished in prisons, Joseph at least possibly slain.
Or the greatest example of power and authority, Christ who attains His throne by means of the cross. He cannot be raised if He is not slain. He ministers to the sick and the lame and raises the dead, all of whom will fall prey to the curses of the Fall again in time. He teaches and instructs multitudes, many of whom will soon cry out for his crucifixion. He includes within His closest disciples the son of perdition who will betray Him to His death. And what of those works returned to Him void? Not one, for God promises that His word never returns to Him void; it accomplishes that for which He sends it. God’s Word accomplished all, not just at the cross but in those three years, and in the years previous of which we have little knowledge, all that He was to do.
If our vocation is to be the offering our life and service to God, then should we not see that the tendency of our vocations should always be the cross? As a teacher, how do I know that I have done enough? As Matt Whitling has said, when I have sacrificed myself for my students. As a teacher, what do I desire for my students? That they, too, sacrifice themselves for others. Learning is sacrifice if seen as vocation. If seen with career in mind, it is selfish and self-centered.
As a teacher, if I see teaching as a career, my students either aid my ends or inhibit them. I am pleased when they perform as I wish and grow angered when they do not. They are pleased with me when they perform as they believe they should or at least receive the recognition they believe they deserve and grow embittered when they do not. Both they and I cease to relate, cease to love, and instead bite and devour one another in the pursuit of what ends in death. And if so taught, will this not be the pattern of our lives?
What then of this distinction? What of the choice between career and vocation? How can we know? The question is the motive; the significance is the heart.
This must be our view for our students; to demand a path of success and attainment is to commit and demand commitment where God simply calls for submission. But this “simple” submission is the way of the cross, the way of Christ, the only way that leads to where all learning and all endeavors must have their end, in the joy of the presence of the pleasure of God.