'Workship' - Vocation

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Posted by Marilyn Cole 5 months ago

This is Part Two of a six-part series that will look at Kara Martin's book, 'Workship: How to use your work to worship God.' Kara Martin is the keynote speaker at EdComm's annual Integral Project Dinner on October 25.

‘Calling is the truth that God calls us to himself so decisively that everything we are, do and have is invested with a special devotion, and direction lived out as a response to his summons and service.’ (Os Guinness in Martin, 2017, p.124)

What do we mean when we talk about vocation?

The word ‘vocation’ is a Latin word for calling. Both vocation and calling are often used to describe a sense of ‘strong guidance’ to a ‘particular type of work’, especially to ministry or the caring professions, but rarely used in relation to manual labour or where the worker had no choice of the kind of work. The implication is that one may be called to ministry or teaching but is rarely called to be a shop assistant or a truck driver; medicine or mission may be seen as a vocation but plumbing and gardening are seen as jobs.

Calling is also a Biblical term. The Old Testament Hebrew word ‘qara’ means called by God to salvation, holiness and service, and the New Testament Greek word 'kaleo/klesus' means an invitation or calling to salvation. Both words refer to a calling of the person to salvation. So as Kara Martin points out, ‘vocation is not so much about what you do it is about responding to the one who calls you’ (Martin, 2017, p121). This means that vocation is a term that all Christians can use, as it is a way of seeing our role at work; it is not about what job you are going to do but who you are at work.

This idea is developed by Amy Sherman in her book Kingdom Calling where she explores the Hebrew idea of 'Tsaddiqim' – the righteous ones - those who recognise their work as a gift from God to be used for His purposes for the common good. This concept of ‘righteous’, which refers to right standing and right behaviour within a community (N.T. Wright, 2008), and which Keller explains as ‘righteousness that is expressed within relationships … conducted with fairness, generosity and equity’ (quoted in Martin, 2017, p. 49) is the outworking in the workplace of being called to salvation for ALL who are called to salvation, regardless of what work is being done. Martin Luther concluded that ‘all works (work) are measured before God by faith alone’ (Martin, 2017, p. 121).

To describe what being righteous in the workplace looks like, Martin presents Amy Sherman’s table:

Dimensions of Righteousness     Characteristic Work Implications

Godward Orientation

Work for God's glory, not self-fulfillment

Avoid Workaholism

Set boundaries on work loyalty vs obedience to God

Embrace daily, functional dependence on the Spirit



Recognise God as the audience


Eternal perspective

Value everyday work as participating in the new Creation


Personal holiness

Not cheating, lying or stealing

Sexual purity in relating with co-workers


Fruit of the Spirit

Grace-based relationships



Generosity towards others, avoiding materialism and self-indulgence


Gut-level compassion for the hurting    

Proactively responding to other's needs

 OUT Social justice

Improving conditions for workers

Promoting just relations with customers, suppliers and shareholders

Being a good corporate neighbour and citizen

Encouraging transformation within one's workplace

Encouraging social reform within one's vocational field


















(Martin, 2017, pp. 50–51)

The 'righteous people of God’ in the Old Testament are the equivalent of those called by grace in the New Testament. They are called to:

  • be holy - Matthew 5:48
  • reject the temptations of the evil one - 1 Thessalonians 5:1-22
  • love each other - 1 Corinthians 13:4-8 (not envy, pride or slander, self-seeking or easily angered or keep a record of wrongs). In contrast love is marked by honesty, a desire to protect others, trust, hope and perseverance.
  • focus on what is true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable and whatever is excellent or worthy of praise - Philippians 4:
  • have compassion, kindness, humility, meekness and patience ... forgive one another, work for unity and practice gratitude - Colossians 3:12-16
  • work to please God not man - Colossians 3:23-24
  • bear the fruits of the spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control - Galatians 5:22-23
  • submit to authority - 1 Timothy 6:1; Romans 13:7
  • respect co-workers - Luke 6:31; Romans 12:18; 1 Thessalonians 5:11-13
  • avoid complaining or grumbling - Philippians 2:14-15
  • expose fraud and unethical behaviour - Ephesians 5:11-13
  • rest from work - Deuteronomy 5:13-15; Psalm 46:10
  • live generously - Proverbs 22:9; 1 Timothy 6:17-19 (Martin, 2017, p. 69).

Kara concludes that our work should be done in a way that honours and worships God and that serves God and others (Martin, 2017, xxii).


Martin, K. (2017). Workship: How to use your work to worship God. Graceworks: Singapore.

Disclaimer: The views, thoughts, and opinions expressed in the text are those of the author, and do not necessarily represent the views of EdComm or the Anglican Diocese of Sydney. The intent is to promote thinking and discussion.