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Barrett L. Gritters is pastor of the Protestant Reformed Church of Byron Center, Michigan.

Believing that God has a place for each of His children, we are encouraged in our search for work after we finish school. God’s place for each of us is our “divine office and calling.”

In trying to determine what to do after high school, the old Latin phrase “Ora et labora” (pray and work!) sends us on our way. We pray with Paul, “Lord, what wilt thou have me to do?” and we work with all our might trying to find the answer of the Lord. Not given to answer by signs in the sky, the Lord wills us to work to determine what He would have us do.

While praying always, we can use the following three guidelines as concrete helps for us in our work of decision making:

1. First, we must determine our calling by our ability.

I mean by this that each young person has been fitted by God with qualifications that match his/her calling.

Sometimes young people don’t even consider what their qualifications are, but simply choose the occupation that their fathers have had. Doing what father has done is not wrong. In fact, sometimes this is an occupation that falls to a young person naturally. A child often has the same skills as the father. Sometimes father makes “taking over the business” quite attractive. But high school students and graduates ought to look farther than dads work, truck, or office. Seriously consider the abilities you have.

What one did well in high school will help determine what direction one can go for employment after school.

This guideline cannot be followed strictly. My own experience is that I liked and did well in mathematics and the science fields in high school—fields that don’t very well apply to the pastorate. On the other hand, one of my brothers did poorly in math and science in high school, but is now a research and development engineer for a defense contractor building missiles.

Nevertheless, normally, one’s abilities in high school ought to be one major factor in determining one’s occupation. Given the gift of public speaking, insight into the Word, and love of working with people, a young man ought to consider the ministry. With the qualifications of the ability to express clearly what she is thinking, a young woman can consider rearing children in the Christian school. The teenager with skills in science and biology can investigate what the field of medicine could be. Love for music could direct one to a field of teaching music—an area where Christian school teachers are needed.

Doesn’t this emphasize the importance of trying hard in high school? Learn! Study! Work! Pray! Ask the Lord what is right for you. Make daily requests that He open doors in the right direction and close others. Are you trying to find your strengths? (Isn’t it true that the young people who enter occupations that need skills in which they did poorly in high school, are those who did not put forth much effort in high school to see what abilities the Lord had given them?)

This also points out the importance of student counseling by qualified teachers in the schools, by concerned pastors in the churches, and by parents who know their children best and see firsthand how they are doing in school. Are we doing this? Are we giving good guidance to our young people? Do we know their strengths and weaknesses?

2. Second, we must determine our calling in the light of God’s revealed will.

By this I mean that God’s Word will guide us in certain directions and away from others in our search for an occupation. That must almost go without saying. But I will say it anyway.

Let me give just a few examples.

A young man will not train for a job that can give him work only in a place that is away from the church. Elimelech and Naomi tasted the bitter results of running away from Gods house so that they could receive food. A starving soul is worse than a starving belly. If you are a photographer, a position on the staff of National Geographic would not fit with life in the church. On the other hand, a studio or a position on a local newspaper’s staff might be options.

Standing firm on the fourth commandment, a Reformed young man or woman will not take a job that requires work every Sabbath day. The revealed will of God is that we worship Him regularly on the Sabbath Day.

Committed to the truth that the child of God must honor those in authority over him, the young man or woman will not take a job that requires joining with anungodly labor union. (Implied is that there may be some unions that don’t compromise Christian behavior.)

Nor should a young man or young woman consider a job, the training for which will take him away from the churches. (But will he or she go to school for a few years where there is no Protestant Reformed Church? Will he make his decision on the basis of whether or not there is a good Reformed church in the area he must be educated? Does this mean that someone could not consider going to Europe for an education?) Our primary calling (as thankful believers) is to be in the church of which we are members. When making a decision of this sort, this is what we keep in mind.

And then there are the gray areas. Will you take a job that involves days and sometimes weeks away from home and family? Will you take a job that means some Sunday travel? Will you take a job that requires some Sunday work? How much is good? Oh, occupation choices are not easy. But these questions must be considered when looking for work. Our first calling is to serve God. Committed to serving God, we must be convinced that the work we choose will enable us to continue to serve Him to the fullest. And this leads to the next point.

3. Third, we determine our calling in connection with kingdom service.

This is last, but certainly not least. What would the Lord have us to do?

True to the Reformed faith and the cause of God’s kingdom, the young man and young woman want to serve God in away that promotes His kingdom. In wanting this, they will ask themselves first whether they can serve Him in a way that directly serves His kingdom. “Do I have the qualifications to study for the ministry?” “Would it be good for me to study to teach in the Christian school?”

This is not to say that Christians don’t serve God’s kingdom if they aren’t pastors or teachers. Some get the impression that ministers think only the ministry and teaching are kingdom work. Perhaps we ministers are guilty of fostering that attitude by talking in the pulpit only about gospel ministry and Christian school teaching. There are more choices, and more good choices besides these.

But every decision made for one occupation and against another must be made with this question serving as a guide: “How can I best serve God’s kingdom?” I cannot answer this for you now. But if you have the options of farming or building houses, you have to ask yourself, “In which occupation can I best serve God?” And there is a good deal involved in that question. Sit down sometime with your pastor or teachers or parents and talk about what would be some determining factors. (One might be how many hours the job requires. Another might be how much money can be made in each. How much will you be home with the family? How many evenings could be devoted to church work? Will a certain job give me opportunity to spend more time with my children as they grow up? Will a job take me away from the church, or draw me close to it? If I am able to express myself well, which job will give me better opportunity as a Christian witness? etc., etc.) In every decision, we seek first God’s kingdom and its righteousness.

What About the Girls?

From a certain point of view, the decision the girls face is even tougher than that of the young men. And that adds all the more weight to the need to pray about their decision.

Normally, girls aren’t in a position that they have to be the bread winners for a family. Normally, the Lord’s will for the young women is that they marry, bear children, guide the home (I Timothy 2:14). This is not to say that this work of motherhood is easy; it is to say that if this is the Lords way, the decision of what occupation to take is made.

But sometimes the Lords way for a girl is that she not marry; or that she marry at an age later than “normal.” But how does she know that? Perhaps she desires marriage, but only later sees that the Lord does not bring her a husband. Then what? Also, because it is not always wise for the young girls to marry immediately out of high school, what should they do from graduation to marriage? It is a complicated business with which the adults ought to sympathize.

The choices are many. Should the girl perhaps find a factory job that will pay well, trying to earn money to help her future husband buy a home? In these days of high living costs and rising Christian school tuition, this might be wise for some. Or should she try to find a job that will help her learn a skill that she might use in her home as a mother? Or considering that she might not marry, should she find employment where the pay might begin low, but have both intellectual stimulation and potential advancement, for long term occupation?

Suggestions

Keeping in mind the guidelines we have already talked about, I will try to give a couple of suggestions. First, if the young women don’t go to college (a choice I will recommend next time) they should ask the same questions the young man asks. “What did I do well in and enjoy in high school?” (Enjoy? Yes! It is difficult to glorify God in a tedious job you dislike strongly.) “Do any of the job possibilities lead me in a path outside of the circle of God’s will? And, how can I best serve God in my work?”

Second, you should also ask questions that fit your circumstances. If you desire to marry (and that is good, even if you don’t let anybody else know), what job will help you be a good mother and wife in the home? If your desire is not to marry, or if the single life is God’s way for you (and that can be good, too—see I Corinthians 7:1, 7-9, 32ff!) what work will directly or indirectly help you “care for the things that belong to the Lord” (I Corinthians 7:32ff)?

The end is coming. The temptation is to say all this doesn’t matter much. Just let me work. But let the decisions of the young women be just as serious and premeditated as their covenant brothers. And let your work after high school be for the glory of God’s name, whatever it is.