IMB VP offers guide to career planning at Boyce College event
Christians planning a career must consider whether a job glorifies God, permits a godly life, and allows them to bless others, said Sebastian Traeger at a Sept. 17 event at Boyce College.
“It is always important, when we talk about choosing a job or career planning, to recognize that this is a pretty modern Western idea,” said Traeger, executive vice president of the International Mission Board. “So it is good for us to recognize that we are in a unique period of time when God has given us this incredible freedom and stewardship to be thinking about how we should be going about choosing a career planning guide.”
Traeger, who co-wrote The Gospel at Work: How Working for King Jesus Gives Purpose and Meaning to Our Jobs, outlined three biblical “must-haves” and three “nice-to-haves” in a career path. Traeger said the three “must-haves” to ask oneself are, “Does the job I want to do glorify God?” “Does this job permit me to live a godly life?” and “Does this job allow you to provide for your needs and be a blessing to others?” Traeger warned against becoming so singularly minded in a job that it excludes the other tasks God has given. Traeger said God has assigned believers the responsibility to be faithful to family, work, and church.
“I need to be able to have consistent spiritual disciplines,” Traeger said. “If a job is pulling me away from consistent spiritual disciplines, that is probably something God doesn’t want me to do. If I can’t be faithful in those other assignments, if I can’t be meaningfully involved in my church, these are things that we need to be critically thinking about in any work that we do.”
In addition to the three “must-haves,” Traeger outlined three “nice-to-haves” in a career path. Traeger said it is helpful to consider whether the job benefits society, takes advantage of one’s gifts and abilities, and brings joy to the Christian worker. Traeger said the Bible does not command believers to do something that perfectly fits their gifts, but Scripture often demonstrates how God specifically gifts people to fulfill specific purposes.
“The Bible is full of examples of God equipping people to do specific work and specific tasks. We see Bezalel was specially gifted to build the tabernacle, Joseph to administrate Pharaoh's kingdom, Daniel to govern, David to be a warrior. Over and over in the Bible, we see God specifically gifted people, and they did specifically what they were gifted to do,” Traeger said.
While no vocation is ever going to provide complete satisfaction, Traeger said it is crucial for believers to be realistic yet recognize that a career can bring great joy.
“We need to be realistic about the level of expectations that any job can bring us from a satisfaction perspective,” Traeger said. “The only way we can truly be content is if Christ has changed our heart, given us new passions and desires, has restored our relationship with God, forgiven us of our sins, and given us new life.”
Traeger encouraged students to develop and refine a specific skill set to increase the value of their work, to plan with patience knowing the Lord decides the future, and to define success appropriately. The Christian worker, Traeger said, should root success in how the Bible defines it and to work faithfully within that framework.
“Success is excellent work done faithfully for the King,” Traeger said. “We have to root our vision of success in the Bible’s vision of success, which is doing work with excellence, and the way you can summarize that is is Genesis 1:31, ‘And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good.’ Do work that is very good, that represents our King, and do that work faithfully as under him.”
Traeger concluded his talk by explaining that career evaluation should focus on glorifying God and serving others before thinking about self. Using the illustration of a pyramid, Traeger said Christian lives are designed to work from the bottom (God) to the top (self). He also demonstrated how calling consists of desires, abilities, and opportunity.
“If you have the desire to do something and the abilities to do something, but no opportunity, that is not what God has for you right now,” Traeger said. “God often directs our steps very specifically and practically through the opportunities he puts in front of us. So we want to be very thoughtful evaluating the way God designed us, evaluating our abilities and desires, but also praying for God, through planning, to provide opportunities for us to do that.”
Traeger’s lecture, “A Student’s Guide to Career Planning,” was sponsored by The Commonweal Project on Faith, Work, and Human Flourishing, an academic initiative at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary funded by the Kern family to foster a theology of work and economics. Boyce is the undergraduate school of Southern Seminary.