How Does a Man Choose His Way in Life?
This question came up in my brief series on manhood last week: is it wrong for a responsible man to be a toymaker? Asked anonymously, this question prompted much thought on my part over the weekend. I won't yet answer this directly. Instead, I want to try and sketch out a framework by which a Christian attempts to answer this question. This is no perfect framework, but it is nonetheless an effort to provide one.
It strikes me that there are four categories a man must consider in deciding his vocation.
1. Self. A man must consider what talents and abilities he naturally possesses. He should think hard about what he likes doing and whether he is good at doing it. He should take care not to think lazily at this point. He should not merely direct himself to what he likes, but to the profession that allows him to best combine his talents and his preferences. Men should ask themselves whether the prospective profession is a waste of their time and ability or a proper channel for it. Stewardship is the issue here, and each man must answer this question for himself, though with the counsel of friends, family, and his local church.
2. Family. A man should consider how his work will affect his family. He should choose a profession that will enable him to provide financial stability for his family. He should consider how much time a particular job will take him away from his family. It will likely be difficult at times to balance these factors--the need to provide versus the need to spend time with his family--but men can take comfort knowing that God has called them to be providers. However, it seems true that Christian men will often not be the employee who is able to do anything for his company. Christian men understand that their family comes first. All this has to be considered by a man entering the workforce, or preparing to do so.
3. Society. I think many Christians neglect this aspect of vocational consideration. We can so emphasize our citizenship in Christ's kingdom that we neglect our God-given role in society. It is appropriate for Christian men to consider how the work they are doing will affect society. Believers should seek to positively contribute to society. This will mean carefully weighing potential jobs in order to determine which will best contribute positively to society, and which will make a greater difference to others in the long run. Oftentimes, this will mean passing up one good thing for another.
4. Kingdom. Christian men must consider how their work fits into kingdom advancement. We recognize that all that we do either advances or impedes the kingdom. Men must thus take into consideration whether their work not only contributes to society, but whether it contributes to the cause above all others, the cause of the extension of God's glory over all the earth. Men must ask themselves if their jobs lead them to do something immoral and unhelpful. Can we be a gospel witness in our profession? Can we pursue helping others over mere personal enrichment? From a kingdom perspective, is this job a waste of my time and talent? Am I able to use my God-given abilities for God's glory in this job? This is the fundamental question, and the one that must be answered with care.
There's a very humble outline of the factors a man of God should consider in choosing his vocational direction. Even with this outline or others, easy answers will sometimes evade the responsible man of God. Tomorrow we'll look more at how one handles such a situation.