Growing up in the church I got the impression that there were two sorts of Christians: those called by God to do fantastic things such as pastors and missionaries, and the rest who had to spend their time in less holy and unimportant jobs. It was almost as if the sole purpose of Christianity was to get to heaven and work was what most people did to pass the time till they got there. Sure, there was the hope that you could evangelize your coworkers, but other than that work was kind of unimportant. It was what you did to make money, some of which you gave to the church where the real holy work happened.
Since then, I have learned the error of such thinking. I have come to see the Bible as teaching that all Christians are called by God to a specific sort of work. God calls doctors, nurses, teachers, business leaders and engineers as much as pastors and missionaries. Yet I do think many Christians still believe as I once did.
To remedy that, I highly recommend Tom Nelson’s book Work Matters. Nelson believes that too many Christians live divided lives, separating Sunday worship from the work they do the rest of the week. This book, directed at just those Christians, seeks to connect the two. Nelson does this by talking about vocation, the idea that all Christians are called to serve in a particular place in the world, for the common good and purpose of God. This book manages to give biblical teaching in an easy-to-read manner. Nelson draws on the breadth of scripture, from creation to new creation. In doing so, Nelson shows the good and worth of work.
I think this is a vital teaching for college students to grasp. God is calling each student to a particular work in the world. The gifts this student has, the passions and desires, are not an accident. If you love math, it is because God gave you that love. If you enjoy art, that is your gift from God. The call on your life is to use these gifts to serve God. But this service is not limited to some sort of Christian sub-culture. Instead the work is done in the world for the good of all people, to increase human flourishing.
A related book is Love Does by Bob Goff. I have had the opportunity to hear Bob Goff speak on two occasions and not only is he inspiring, he is also hilarious. This combination shines through in this book. On one level, it is just an enjoyable and funny read. I found myself laughing at his stories quite often. But on another level, it is challenging and inspiring. What I appreciate most is that while we have loads of books written by pastors on the Christian life, we have too few written by men and women like Goff. Goff is a lawyer who allows God to lead him on all sorts of adventures. For this reason, I think this book could be greatly appreciated by all sorts of Christians. Definitely worth your time.
Your work matters. Your life matters. These two books both illustrate that.
If you want a shorter book on the idea of vocation, check out Stephen Nichols book, What is Vocation?