Have you ever heard someone say that being a preacher is the highest calling? Or that being a wife and mother is the highest calling for women? I have. But I don’t recall the Bible making those claims.
In my own youth, during invitation times at the end of a service, the call was usually for salvation, surrender, or “full-time” Christian service. The last just seemed like “the ultimate,” the natural progression of someone who wanted to live all out for God. I heard one youth pastor say that even though he knew God could use anyone in any profession, he didn’t like to acknowledge that during an invitation lest it stop the momentum of the invitation geared toward getting people to surrender to God’s call in their lives (as if God’s call depended on momentum and not the Holy Spirit’s working.) I’ve known young women who only wanted to marry a preacher, evangelist, or missionary, as they felt that was the best way to serve the Lord with their lives – even the only way in their minds. I know one mom who strenuously objected to the jaunty little song, “I’m a policeman dressed in blue,” especially the line “No one has a better job than mine” because she wanted her child to aspire higher than that (I always took that line to mean he loved his job.)
There is certainly a hierarchy of leadership and roles within Christendom, with pastors being the leaders in their church. I Corinthians 12:28 says, “And God hath set some in the church, first apostles, secondarily prophets, thirdly teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, governments, diversities of tongues.” But I don’t think it indicates one calling is more special to God than another. The very next verse goes on to say, “Are all apostles? are all prophets? are all teachers? are all workers of miracles? Have all the gifts of healing? do all speak with tongues? do all interpret?” No one has all the gifts: the Bible teaches that everyone uses his gift to work together to edify the body of Christ.
In the preparation of the tabernacle, God “called by name Bezaleel the son of Uri, the son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah: And I have filled him with the spirit of God, in wisdom, and in understanding, and in knowledge, and in all manner of workmanship” in gold, silver, brass, cutting and setting stones, and carving (Exodus 31:1-6). God’s best, highest calling for Bezaleel was this kind of work.
When my youngest was in high school, the pastor of the church associated with the school once brought out the need to train the whole body of Christ, not just those in “full-time” Christian service. He cited an incident in which his good friend, who was his back surgeon, was at a meeting where the speaker urged that everyone should be in gospel ministry, and then ironically spoke to this doctor afterward about needing to make an appointment with him because of some health issues he was having.
Every Christian is called to full-time ministry. No matter what our vocation, we’re called to be fully Christian 100% of the time. That doesn’t mean if someone is a firefighter or banker he should neglect his work to witness or counsel people. The Bible has multiple verses along the lines of “Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might” (Ecc. 9:10) and “Servants, be obedient to them that are your masters according to the flesh, with fear and trembling, in singleness of your heart, as unto Christ; Not with eyeservice, as menpleasers; but as the servants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart; With good will doing service, as to the Lord, and not to men” (Ephesians 6:5-7). People aren’t going to listen to the words of our testimony if we’re slacking off in our work.
But full-fledged Christians can have a great ministry in whatever line of work they’re in. My husband has been able to talk to people in the course of his work who would never come to church and who would be guarded around a pastor. When we took my father to the hospital in critical condition, it was a blessing to me to see several among the staff who had attended my Christian college.
Likewise, we read or hear some say, or at least seem to indicate, that being a wife and mother is a woman’s highest calling. I think such rhetoric may have sprung up in response to the devaluing of marriage and motherhood over the last several years. But where does that leave single, childless, or empty-nest women?
Lay people, single people, and childless women are not “second class” in the kingdom of God. God has something for each of us to do with the gifts, personality, and life situations He puts us in. God’s highest calling for is unique to each individual.