"What Is Your Occupation?"
Genesis 47:1-12 in the NASB reads:
Then Joseph went in and told Pharaoh, and said, “My father and my brothers and their flocks and their herds and all that they have, have come out of the land of Canaan; and behold, they are in the land of Goshen.” He took five men from among his brothers and presented them to Pharaoh. Then Pharaoh said to his brothers, “What is your occupation?” So they said to Pharaoh, “Your servants are shepherds, both we and our fathers.” They said to Pharaoh, “We have come to sojourn in the land, for there is no pasture for your servants’ flocks, for the famine is severe in the land of Canaan. Now, therefore, please let your servants live in the land of Goshen.” Then Pharaoh said to Joseph, “Your father and your brothers have come to you. The land of Egypt is at your disposal; settle your father and your brothers in the best of the land, let them live in the land of Goshen; and if you know any capable men among them, then put them in charge of my livestock.”
Then Joseph brought his father Jacob and presented him to Pharaoh; and Jacob blessed Pharaoh. Pharaoh said to Jacob, “How many years have you lived?” So Jacob said to Pharaoh, “The years of my sojourning are one hundred and thirty; few and unpleasant have been the years of my life, nor have they attained the years that my fathers lived during the days of their sojourning.” And Jacob blessed Pharaoh, and went out from his presence. So Joseph settled his father and his brothers and gave them a possession in the land of Egypt, in the best of the land, in the land of Rameses, as Pharaoh had ordered. Joseph provided his father and his brothers and all his father’s household with food, according to their little ones.
A few years back, a Gallup poll found that the average American worked 34.4 hours per week and the average full time worker put in 47 hours per week. As there are only 168 hours in our week, that means 25% of our total time is committed to work for much of our life. And if you take out time for sleep, this amount creeps up to about 40% of our time awake.
Given this huge time allotment to our labors, it is proper to consider the importance of working. Christians need to understand the necessity of work, the need to be a willing worker, and the need for wisdom in choosing a job.
“What Is Your Occupation?” Is Often Asked
The people Pharaoh asked were shepherds. Since they were shepherds, Joseph thought it would be wise for them to live in Goshen (Gen. 46:34). Being a shepherd is an honorable occupation dating back to the dawn of creation (Gen. 4:2). Not all jobs are honorable. Some are an abomination when their impact on man is considered.
The same question was asked of Jonah (Jonah 1:8). The mariners were probing for information about this passenger responsible for their danger. Jonah was a messenger of God who was supposed to be on his way home to Nineveh. Instead, he was running away. What unbecoming behavior! Is my life in harmony with my job?!
We need to consider where our occupation will take us. What kind of people will we be with? Will they help or hinder our being faithful to God? Forethought, realistic projection, and preparation will enable us to fulfill God’s purpose.
An Occupation Is A Necessary Endeavor.
Through the ages God has issued to man the command to work. Even in Paradise man was to work (Gen. 2:15). When put out, work was commanded (Gen. 3:19). We are commanded to work (1Thess. 4:17). It is God’s law that we work or starve (2Thess. 3:10). People without the satisfaction of working with their hands and minds have lost control of their God-given resources. Unless they rediscover them, they are destined to failure in their existence. When we ask, “What is your occupation?”, we assume the person works for that is the normal condition.
Employment is essential to happiness. Idleness exposes a person to all kinds of worries and fears, and permits the imagination to run wild. An occupation is more enjoyable if one can see in it that which also helps others (Matt. 20:28).
Occupations create associations. A trade or profession is often the common tie that binds people together (Acts 18:3). Some people become better because of their job associates; others become worse.
Our Occupation Influences Our Conduct.
What people around us do, think, or express has to be reacted to by us. We may react negatively, positively, or with indifference. We may be favorably or unfavorably impressed. We may be attracted or repulsed. Thus we need to weigh the direction of the pull on our character.
Pilate was a politician and it undoubtedly influenced him to deliver Jesus to be killed. He would not allow his position to be hurt. People in various occupations often compromise their faith in order to advance, or increase their profits. Such is sin. “Can I stand for truth and right, and not bend under the pressure while filling this job?”
Demetrius was a silversmith who made heathen gods, and it led him to fight the gospel (Acts 19:23-25). He preferred business to truth. Peter’s statement to Simon is still true (Acts 8:20). Is going to Hell worth the money? Serious attention must be given before we become attached to a job!
Considerations In Choosing An Occupation.
“Will the occupation I am considering hinder me in God’s work?” This must come first (Matt. 6:33). God must be first in all decisions. Don’t take a job that will keep you from assembling regularly (Heb. 10:25; Acts 20:7).
Another important question: “Will it be in the best interest of my family?” Certainly mean is to provide for his family (1Tim. 5:8). Many homes are destroyed when one or both parents are gone for long periods of time. Working mothers need to consider seriously whether or not it is really necessary for them to be out of the home.
“Will it hinder my health?” should also be asked. We are to glorify God in our body (1Cor. 6:20). Good health is also emotional. “Can I be happy at this job?” Money is nothing without happiness (1Tim. 6:7).
“Is this joy in keeping with my talents and abilities?” The Lord taught that different people have different talents. This factor enters into our happiness on the job. Each should follow a work that demands his best. No one should feel disgraced when he sees the limitation of his capabilities. There is need to “wait on tables” just as there is need to proclaim the Word (Acts 6:1-4).
So, what is your occupation? It is a worthwhile consideration. Have a “good Christian work ethic” in an area that devotes so much of your time. Ensure you choose your occupation wisely and whether or not the environment you will be in will be productive to your discipleship and spirituality. And as always, let our first devotion be to please God by living obediently to Him.