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Climbing that Ladder

Is your significance tied too closely to achievements—building buildings, reaching business goals, acquiring material possessions, climbing career ladders? There’s nothing inherently wrong with these. But if you lost them, would your confidence completely crumble? If your sense of worth depends on them, what happens when you reach the top of the ladder, only to discover that the ladder is leaning against the wrong wall'

The problem is that our world has a system of values that is upside down from the way God determines value. It lacks any sense of what Scripture describes as “calling,” or what Christians later termed “vocation”—a perspective that God has called and equipped people to serve Him through their work in the world. Instead, our culture encourages us to climb a work/identity ladder that is ultimately self-serving, and often self-destructive.

Climbing that ladder can be very misleading. The higher one goes, the more one’s identity, value, and security tend to depend on the nature of one’s work. But what happens if we lose our position, titles, or high-level compensation? Perhaps this explains why severe emotional problems—drug and alcohol abuse, abuse of spouse and children, divorce, even suicide—often accompany job loss. If our significance relies on our job, then it dies with our job.

God calls us to a far more stable basis for significance. He wants us to establish our identity in the fact that we are His children, created by Him to carry out good works as responsible people in His kingdom (Eph. 2:10). This is our calling or vocation from God. According to Scripture, our calling:

  • is irrevocable (Rom. 11:29).
  • is from God; He wants to let us share in Christ’s glory (2 Thess. 2:14).
  • is a function of how God has designed us (Eph. 2:10).
  • is an assurance that God will give us everything we need to serve Him, including the strength to remain faithful to Him (1 Cor. 1:7-9).
  • is what we should be proclaiming as our true identity (1 Pet. 2:5, 9).
  • carries us through suffering (1 Pet. 2:19-21).
  • is rooted in peace, no matter what the circumstances in which we find ourselves (1 Cor. 7:15-24).
  • is focused on eternal achievements, not merely temporal ones (Phil. 3:13—4:1).

Above all else, believers are called to character development, service to others, and loyalty to God. These can be accomplished wherever we live or work, whatever our occupational status or position in society. If we pursue these, we can enjoy great satisfaction and significance. No matter what happens on the job, we can join Paul in saying, “We know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose” (Rom. 8:28).

The Word in Life Study Bible, New Testament Edition, (Thomas Nelson Publishers, Nashville; 1993), p. 180

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