Weekly Impact is written for leaders by our former Executive Director, Garth Jestley, who has decades of experience in senior leadership roles in the financial services sector. Each week he will share insights on life, leadership and faith.
This Series explores “business as calling” – what it means, barriers to seeing business as a calling and its implications for followers of Jesus who desire to live out their faith in God not only on the weekend but also in the marketplace.
“As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received.” ~Paul, the Apostle
According to the Oxford English Dictionaries, calling means “a strong urge towards a particular way of life or career; a vocation.” The Merriam-Webster Dictionary adds a spiritual dimension as follows: “a strong inner impulse toward a particular course of action especially when accompanied by conviction of divine influence.” To the extent the term is used today, it is usually in the secular context of a profession.
A moment’s thought should lead one to the conclusion that “calling” implies a “caller” – and that caller is usually not oneself! Thus, I think Merriam Webster’s definition is more true to the historical usage of the word than Oxford’s purely secular take. And in the world of those professing to be followers of Jesus, calling implies responding to Jesus’ call when he says “follow me.”
The writings of the early church leaders, especially the Apostle Paul, explore every facet of a Christian’s identity as a child of God and one of the predominant themes is calling. Indeed, there are 87 references to calling (or being called) in the various letters to the early church in the New International Version of the Bible.
Notwithstanding, there is often ambivalence among Christians towards the concept of business as a legitimate calling. I will delve into some reasons for this discomfort in subsequent postings. For now, I would simply note that ambivalence toward business isn’t limited to followers of Jesus.
I well remember an incident during my junior high school years in Vancouver. On one occasion, my guidance counsellor asserted that we were in real trouble if we didn’t know what we were going to do with the rest of our lives. Given the average age of our class was 13, it was a curious, if not dubious, proposition! However, in a state of near panic that evening, I consulted my father, for whom I had great respect and admiration.
A successful lawyer, my father favoured a career in that field but allowed that I might also consider other worthy professions such as medicine, engineering and architecture. He even mentioned Christian ministry though I was not paying attention to Jesus at the time! In his view, these professions represented the most noble of my vocational options. Notably absent was a career in business even though he specialized in corporate law!
As it happens, I chose medicine because I particularly enjoyed biology that year. After writing the medical entrance exams some years later, I confronted the reality that I can’t stomach the sight of blood! Thus ended my medical aspirations.
My father’s perspective is not uncommon. For many, the professions are infused with special virtue. Perhaps it relates to their status in higher education or the fact that the professions are perceived as making a high value contribution to the common good. For many in our culture including followers of Jesus, business simply does not fit this descriptor.
Is business in some way tainted and, if so, how? What is the relevance of faith in God in the context of this question? In the following posts, I will argue in favour of business as a legitimate calling, every bit as valid as other professions including vocational ministry. Stay tuned!
Garth Jestley is a husband, father, grandfather, leader and business executive. Most importantly, he is a follower of Jesus Christ.