Are Vocation and Occupation the Same Thing?

Defining Terms

In our ordinary conversation, vocation and occupation can be the same thing, but in the history of language and in the Bible’s expression of what we're doing, they actually have very special distinctions. Our occupation is what occupies us, and that's good and that's important, but vocation actually comes from a word that means calling.

And we have a vocation as well, which means we recognize that in our occupation we are fulfilling God's calling upon our lives. And for that reason, our vocation—fulfilling God's purpose, answering his call—is seeing ourselves as magnifying and multiplying the glory of God in what we do.

Grace at Work

Bryan Chapell

Author and pastor Bryan Chapell shares what the Bible teaches about work and how the gospel makes our jobs instruments of his grace. 

So when we resist temptation, when we do a job well, when we are reflecting God in practices as well as in integrity, what we're doing is we're actually fulfilling a calling of expressing God's name, purposes, and his mission in the world.

Occupation as Christians

I have a friend who's a marathon runner and he was on a particularly difficult race—or knew that he would be. And so knowing how the end goes—an uphill climb at the end—he put on his jersey, not his own name, but the name Christian, because he knew that as he approached the finish line and he was wearing out, people would say, Go get 'em Christian! You can do it, Christian! Take the hill, Christian!

We recognize that in our occupation we are fulfilling God's calling upon our lives.

And there's a sense in which we are Christian in our occupation, where we are fulfilling the calling of being Christian, of being named by what we do, and therefore naming Christ in how we do it. We are fulfilling our calling, which means, in another sense, we are fulfilling our profession.

We have a profession like doctor, lawyer, or construction worker. That's my profession, but I'm also professing Christ by saying who he is, reflecting his character and care in how I fulfill my vocation, my calling in doing my occupation or what occupies me.

Bryan Chapell is the author of Grace at Work: Redeeming the Grind and the Glory of Your Job.

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