Many believers are under the misconception that they must be teaching Greek in a seminary class or pastoring a flock of sheeple in order to be a significance in the kingdom. “If only I were a missionary in Thailand or Bangladesh, THEN I would be reeeeally serving God fully!” This would be true if only God had not called each of us to varied and diverse callings. Not only does the Body of Christ function together as a cohesive organic community of multi-purposed parts it also functions outside of its corporate gathering in the same way.
By doing all that we do for Him alone, the common work of an ordinary occupation can radiate His glory as a reflection of the work of redeeming grace. Through us, as willingly obedient and joyful vessels, the beauty of the Lord’s work in the gospel penetrates normally dismal cubicles and office complexes into vibrant places of salt and light living. Here is a story written by Calvin Seerveld about his father’s work. It demonstrates the point quite well.
My father is a seller of fish. We children know the business too having worked from childhood in the Great South Bay Fish Market, Patchogue, Long Island, New York, helping our father like a quiver full of arrows. It is a small store, and it smells like fish.
I remember a Thursday noon long ago when my Dad was selling a large carp to a prosperous woman and it was a battle to convince her. “Is it fresh?”
It fairly bristled with freshness, had just come in, but the game was part of the sale. They had gone over it anatomically together: the eyes were bright, the gills were a good color, the flesh was firm, the belly was even spare and solid, the tail showed not much waste, the price was right–Finally my Dad held up the fish behind the counter, ?Beautiful, beautiful! Shall I clean it up??
And as she grudgingly assented, ruefully admiring the way the bargain had been struck, she said, “My, you certainly didn’t miss your calling.”
Unwittingly, she spoke the truth. My father is in full-time service for the Lord, prophet, priest and king in the fish business. And customers who come in the store sense it. Not that we always have the cheapest fish in town! Not that there are no mistakes on a busy Friday morning! Not that there is no sin! But this: that little Great South Bay Fish Market, my father and two employees, is not only a clean, honest place where you can buy quality fish at a reasonable price with a smile, but there is a spirit in the store, a spirit of laugher, of fun, of joy inside the buying and selling that strikes an observer pleasantly; and the strenuous week-long preparations in the back rooms for Friday fish-day are not a routine drudgery interrupted by rest periods but again, a spirit seems to hallow the lowly work into a rich service, in which it is good to officiate.
When I watch my Dad’s hands, big beefy hands with broad stubby fingers each twice the thickness of mine, they could never play a piano; when I watch those hands delicately split the back of a mackerel or with a swift, true stroke fillet a flounder close to the bone, leaving all the meat together; when I know those hands dressed and peddled fish from the handlebars of a bicycle in the grim 1930’s, cut and sold fish year after year with never a vacation through fire and sickness, thieves and disasters, weariness, winter cold and hot muggy summers, twinkling at work without complaint, past temptations, struggling day in and day out to fix a just price, in weakness often but always in faith consecratedly cutting up fish before the face of the Lord: when I see that, I know God’s Grace can come down to a man’s hand and the flash of a scabby fish knife.
In his book, The Other Six Days, R. Paul Stevens writes, “…the biblical doctrine of vocation proposes that the whole of our lives finds meaning in relation to the sweet summons of a good God.”(p. 72) We are called BY someone before we are called the do something. We musn’t allow a poor understanding of vocation in occupation rob us of our Ephesians 2:10 exercise of faith. Surely, mere living ‘right’ and ‘purposed’ before men will never convert them for faith comes by hearing the Word of God; however, He has called us to live differently in all that we pursue.
I pray that we would meditate more on the role of work and occupation and instruct our children well before we find ourselves into an irreversible clench of time, resource and wasted gifts.