Monday, December 04, 2006

Spurgeon on Choosing Your Occupation

Charles Spurgeon offers timeless advice on faith, work and the choice of one's occupation. Whether you're a college student embarking on your career or a 45 year old executive in the midst of a midlife career change, these are truths worth remembering.

True faith in him who loved us, and gave himself for us, also seeks direction of the Lord as to the sphere of its action, and waits upon him to be guided by him in the choice of a calling. Some people are trying to do what they were never made for, ambitious beyond their line. This is a grievous evil. There should, therefore, be a seeking unto God for guidance and direction; and faith leads us to such seeking.

Spurgeon also speaks to the nature of the work suitable for a Christian.

In the choice of a calling faith helps a Christian to refuse that which is the most lucrative if it be attended with a questionable morality... Trades which are injurious to men's minds and hearts are not lawful callings before God. Dishonest gain is awful loss.

He warns not only of dishonest gain but also of the kind of motivation that places the pursuit of money as the primary aim of work and the center of one's ambition.

"Make money," said the worldling to his son; "make it honestly if you can, but, anyhow, make money." Faith abhors this precept of Mammon, and having God's providence for its inheritance, it scorns the devil's bribe.

Spurgeon's advice is practical in the sense that he understands that God creates each person with unique gifts and abilities. The discovery of one's call must take that into account.

Callings should be deliberately chosen with a view to our own suitableness for them. Faith watches the design of God, and desires to act according to his intent.

He advises that faith also takes into account the providence of God in placing us within the scope of a particular time, place and opportunity. The faith that seeks God for vocational guidance is markedly different from a purely analytical assessment of our circumstances. Instead, there is a leaning upon God as we assess our position in life; trusting in God's sovereign favor to lead us into what he intends for us.

We should also by faith desire such a calling as Providence evidently has arranged and intended for us. Some persons have never had a free choice of what vocation they would follow; for from their birth, position, surroundings, and connections they are set in a certain line of things, like carriages on the tram lines, and they must follow on the appointed track, or stand still. Faith expects to hear the voice behind it saying, "This is the way, walk ye in it." Trusting to our own judgment often means following our own whims; but faith seeks direction from infallible wisdom, and so it is loaf in a right way. God knows your capacity better than you do; entreat him to choose your inheritance for you.

If the flowers were to revolt against the gardener, and each one should select its own soil, most of them would pine and die through their unsuitable position; but he who has studied their nature knows that this dower needs shade and damp; and another needs sunlight and a light soil; and so he puts his plants where they are most likely to flourish. God doeth the same with us.

What I love about Spurgeon's perspective is that he never drifts far from the gospel. He reminds us that God may have either fortune or poverty for us but he remains faithful to work for our good and the praise of his own glory.

He hath made some to be kings, though few of those plants flourish much. He has made many to be poor, and the soil of poverty, though damp and cold, has produced many a glorious harvest for the great Reaper. The Lord has set some in places of peril, places from which they would gladly escape, but they are there preserved by his hand; he has planted many others in the quiet shade of obscurity, and they blossom to the praise of the great Husbandman.

These God centered perspectives from the 19th century may seem odd to us at times. Unfortunately, much of what passes as career advice today, even from Christians, will often emphasize the practical aspects of choosing a career but leave little room for the spiritual. It may espouse the view to "do what you love" but often without accounting for God's calling. It may assess career opportunities on the basis of pay or marketplace demand but not in terms of what brings honor to God or serves our neighbor.

Spurgeon exhorts us to think about our career choices rather differently.


Anonymous said...

I wonder if you might be interested in my Bible Reading Notes, covering the whole of Scripture
Best Wishes.

Anonymous said...

Timeless advice, indeed.

I found this through the Christian Carnival.

Mark Goodyear said...

Andre, these posts on Spurgeon are great! Like CliffNotes on faith and work.

Spurgeon says to beware of "trades which are injurious to men's minds."

I wonder what that means, though. Surely, a Christian could not serve God through pornography or theft or human trafficking.

But I've heard people use this logic to condemn professions that aren't inherently dishonorable. Like marketing or acting or selling alchohol in a grocery store.

I'd be curious to hear what jobs you think of as "injurious to men's minds."

Anonymous said...

Hi Andre:

I liked your Spurgeon article very much, particularly the points made about God's providence. Actually, I also participated in Christian Carnival LCI and noticed that your article, my contribution (On Fulfillment), and also an article titled "Sure-Fire Guaranteed Success!" touched on similar themes. How's that for God's providence?



andre said...


I am certainly interested and will check out your Bible Reading Notes.

Thanks for the tip.


andre said...


Thanks for visiting and for taking the time to offer your comment...please stop by again!


Thanks for commenting. I stopped by your blog to check out your article on fulfillment. It was wonderfully honest and Christ centered. I will offer my complete comments on your site. Thanks for stopping by to read and comment on my post.

Grace to you


andre said...


Yes, I do love Spurgeon's God centered but practical advice...there are more posts in the future.

For now, I want to consider your question. Certainly working in certain jobs ...for instace in the porn industry would qualify as "trades injurious to men's minds" but marketing? I don't think so. That seems to me to be neutral. In such jobs there are ways to do the work in such a manner as to glorify God.

Certainly some jobs are more questionable - like being a bartender. Interestingly, I don't see selling alcohol in a grocery store as one of those kinds of work.

I think I would consider a trade to be injurious to men's minds when the essence of the work performed credibly is necessarily morally or ethically wrong. So being a lawyer wouldn't be injurious since the work can be conducted in an ethical manner. Being a burglar would be off limits since it is necessarily morally wrong. I also think another measure is whether it does good or harm to our fellow man (and perhaps this was what Spurgeon was after)

It's a good question - not one I've considered extensively. What do you think?

L.L. Barkat said...

Hmmm... this follows, just a little too close for comfort, a passage I read this morning about Elisha and Naaman.

Elisha's servant went out to get a little "return" from Naaman, and Elisha condemned him, "Is this a time to accept money and to accept clothing?" Seems to me that I have to think about the balance between using my calling and profiting from it.

Anonymous said...

Andre, thanks for your reply to my message about the Bible Reading Notes. I hope you find them helpful. May God bless you & make you a blessing to others.

Anonymous said...

I started to reply here, but it got out of control. So I posted over at my blog. There should be a link underneath the comments.

Anonymous said...

I started to reply here, but it got out of control. So I posted over at my blog. There should be a link underneath the comments.

Anonymous said...

I started to reply here, but it got out of control. So I posted over at my blog. There should be a link underneath the comments.

Megan said...

This is particularly difficult for me as a Christian. I began praying about a choice of major and occupation my first year in college, but the call of talents (or what I perceived as my talents) AND practicality was always a difficult distraction...sometimes what you're best at or what's the most rational/responsible isn't necessarily what God wants you to do.

I still struggle with this years later and do believe it will be a life long difficulty that requires much prayer and a clear, uninterrupted connection with God. Great post!

standrews said...

Updating my earlier comment (the first one) - The third of these blogs is no longer available. The other two can still be found here and here.