I winced when I heard my mentor-from-afar say that motherhood was the highest calling.
Thirty years ago, hearing such sentiments encouraged me that my decision to stay home to raise my children was a valuable one, contrary to the feminist teaching that stay-at-home moms were somehow lesser beings than career women. And I am sure that’s how this writer and speaker meant her statement.
But where does that sentiment leave women to whom God has not given husbands or children? I know from this speaker’s other writings and speeches that she did not regard single or childless women as any less called by God to serve Him. Maybe in her desire to encourage mothers swimming against the tide of societal pressure, she just didn’t realize how her statement about calling sounded.
I’ve also heard preachers say that being a minister of the gospel is the highest calling. I don’t think they meant it arrogantly. It surely is a privilege to be able to study God’s Word and minister to people with the bulk of your time and life.
But I don’t think the Bible calls motherhood or professional ministry or anything else the highest call of God (unless I’ve missed it. Please feel free to let me know if I have).
In the parable of the talents in Matthew 25:14-30, a man gave three of his servants differing amounts of money and told them to invest it while he was away. When he came back, he called his servants to give an account of what they did with what he gave them. The person with five talents and the one with three each invested their talents and doubled their money. They were each told, “Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.” The main focus on the passage was on the one servant who didn’t invest anything, but hid his talent away. The master was highly displeased and that servant was punished.
But even though the second servant isn’t the focus, I note that he didn’t grumble, “Well, I could have made ten talents if I had been given five like this other guy. But I was only given three, so this was the best I could do.” No, he was commended for doing what he could with what he had been given.
Paul tells us we’re not wise to compare ourselves with others (2 Corinthians 10:12), yet we all too easily fall into that trap.
What is God’s highest calling? No one profession or ministry. God’s highest calling for each person is to surrender themselves to Him for whatever He asks. He has a place and purpose for each of us.
When we cared for my husband’s mother in our home, hospice sent a bath aide out twice a week. I can’t think of anyone who grew up saying, “I want to give old people baths when I grow up.” But our primary bath aide treated her job as the most important thing she could be doing at the moment. She was efficient, she was on time unless something hindered, she was cheerful. She didn’t gripe about unpleasant aspects of the work. She treated my mother-in-law with dignity and respect. It was like she brought sunshine in with her. But her light came from the Son she loved.
Philippians 2:14-16a tells us we “shine as lights in the world, holding fast to the word of life.”
We can shine His light and make a difference no matter where we are or what God has called us to. Secretaries, executives, doctors, nurses, firefighters, custodians, nursing home residents, all have unique spheres of influence.
In my husband’s first professional job, his supervisor was from a religion where he had been told not to read the Bible. His boss would never have entered a Baptist church, except maybe for a funeral or wedding. So my husband’s only means to share Christ with him were through conversations and working side by side over several years.
Ephesians 2:10 tells us, “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” Those good works are not meant to count for salvation: the previous two verses tell us our salvation is a gift of God, not a result of our works. But from that salvation, from our love and thankfulness, we spend our lives to serve Him. There are things He created us to do, and our highest calling is to do whatever He has put before us with grace.
Does shining our light for the Lord mean nonstop witnessing? No. But when we “do all to the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10:31), it shows in our lives.
We can shine for God whether we’re comforting a child with a skinned knee, drawing blood, answering a customer service call with a cheerful voice and efficient help, preaching a sermon, washing a patient’s hair, letting someone in our lane of traffic, or having the same conversation for the fifth time with an elderly loved one.
What matters is not the size of our service, but the One for Whom we do it and the love and grace He wants to show others through us.
(I often link up with some of these bloggers.)
I’ve heard it said, because I’ve said it many times, that “It’s not the size of the dog in the fight, it’s the size of the fight in the dog.” We Christians don’t have to be the loudest, biggest, or most flashy individual to garner attention. Our testimony is our lives and how we live it. If we’re in-line with where God wants us to be, then the world will notice us because of how different we are, not because of how loud or forceful we are. The greatest force in all creation is God’s Holy Spirit. The more we let Him control our thoughts, actions, and words, the stronger we’ll be as we seek to carryout God’s greatest calling for our lives. Well said Ms. Barbara.
Thanks so much, JD. As long as we’re walking with God and filled with His Spirit, He can use us in whatever way He wants to.
Beautiful words of encouragement. I appreciate your insight on the man with three talents and not griping, or comparing ourselves with others. I’ve been doing that very thing!
God knew I needed this reminder to be the person, the light, that He designed me to be. And not wish I’d done something else. Thank you for sharing your talent…
Thanks so much. There are always some who seem to be more talented than we are, but God made us each for different purposes. All we have to do is keep our eyes on Him and do all as unto Him.
We each have our own calling. I don’t see one more important than the other. If we all had the same task there are many things that would never get done
Such good counsel.
I just recently finished writing a post about the impact my early mothering days had on my growth. However, I was also careful to say that mothering is not the only path to sanctification …
Amen! Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart is serving the Lord not man! Thank you for these good words.
Wise words. Thank you!
Well said. Our call is always to put God first.
I agree. “What matters is not the size of our service, but the One for Whom we do it and the love and grace He wants to show others through us.” Well said, Barbara.
Such wise advice! Yes, the highest calling is simply to do whatever God calls each of us to do. All our work and our service should be “as unto the Lord”.
“Doing the best with what we have been given” – I love this Barb – so to the point – and maybe that means love the best with those we have been given – whether biologically or in our daily walk! Under the point you successfully debunk, “motherhood being the highest calling” – what then happens to motherhood when the nest empties out? Is she demoted – and I think so many mothers think they are and feel less fulfilled! You’ve given us filling soul food, my friend!
I like this so much! What a wonderful example of the woman who gave your MIL a bath. I remember a woman who volunteered to do the many tasks associated with the nursery at our church decades ago. I remember being amazed at how she took that menial task and gave it her all, making it special (putting up really nice bulletin boards outside the nursery and various other things). Somehow she elevated the task just by the effort and joy she put into that. Like you, I don’t think any one calling is higher than another; it’s just what Jesus has called us specifically to. Praying for a good week for you as your prepare for your guests!
You’ve hit on an important subject. My sister is unmarried and she has mentioned this very thing. A mother, yes, must be more devoted to the calling of motherhood than to anything external. (Which doesn’t exclude anything external, just that external things must not be her highest priority.) But it is not right to call motherhood the highest calling when applied to the general Christian world. Thank you.
I appreciate your post, Barbara. It reminded me of my mother. She was so faithful and true despite her lack of societal privilege. She knew her calling and excelled at it. I’m forever grateful. We all have high callings, as different as they may be.
This is a wonderful post!! Most of my friends were SAHM while I was called by the Lord dto teach special ed preschool students until my oldest was 2 and then I was priveleged to stay home for 6 years full time. It’s really up to what GOD is calling us to do/where to be, etc. ANd YES women can have it all. Just not all at once 🙂
I think that God’s highest calling for a person is the calling He has given that person. I’ve been a wife, mother, nurse and am now a retired, widow and empty nester. All the “callings” I felt I had been given are now past except for being a mother and that is no longer in the active sense. Now, I need to discover God’s highest calling for me in this time of my life. I like how you say that God wants us to do for others in “the love and grace He wants to show others through us.”
I think it’s dawning on me that intimacy with him in daily circumstances is his call. “Come unto me.. I have chosen you..” For me it’s a trial by error walk that never ceases. I’m drawn to him, by him.
Beautiful truths, Barbara. My husband and I spend much of our time teaching and counseling married couples. But he is currently teaching a class for singles. As I have sat in I’m reminded of all the beautiful ways He calls His children to seasons or even lives of singleness.
Barbara, I so appreciate your thoughts here. So much gently stated truth. So many important things to remember when we frame our identity and what God cherishes.
Oh Amen-you are so right…and our calling, whatever it is, is worship.
As a single woman who’s a Christian, I’ve long ignored those “motherhood highest calling” statements and less explicit communications that marriage is the ideal state. So appreciate your closing statements.
I love this so much, Barbara. I used to work for a magazine that was geared toward helping people live out their faith in their workplaces, and one verse we mentioned a lot was the one about letting our light shine before men so that they could see our “good work” and glorify God as a result. Wonderful post!
Yes indeed >”God’s highest calling for each person is to surrender themselves to Him for whatever He asks. He has a place and purpose for each of us.” This is such a compelling message.
Visiting today from Let’s Have Coffee #17&18
Whether wielding a sword, sweeping the streets or standing behind a pulpit, the most important thing is to be and do where and what He has called you to.
I found that by delighting in Him, and knowing that He delights in me, frees me from a lot of things that others struggle with daily. Being a fragrant aroma has no competition. 🙂
I love this post and these words in particular–“God’s highest calling for each person is to surrender themselves to Him for whatever He asks.” Each of us is meant to serve one another in love. Thank you for challenging our biases.
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Caregiving is so difficult, and so often we don’t get a break. Rest in Him is so important. I think our highest calling may be relying on the one who really did have the highest calling.