The Practical Side: Occupation vs. Vocation

You may think C.S. Lewis’s writings only offer an intellectual approach to faith, one that certainly employs a creative vision, but is often stuck too far in the clouds. I would argue that such an approach, bathed in imagination, actually becomes the legs that everyday, practical faith actually walk on and keep balance. However, some straight-on practical advice is also helpful – stuff like work and food and relationships with others. I’m here to say that Lewis does provide some helpful insight into various life situations, and in this first posting of a short series, I want to reference some of these overlooked excerpts. 

We start with Lewis’s note about balancing occupation and vocation, employment with calling. It’s from the Collected Letters, January 5, 1951. I found it very helpful advice.

St Paul’s job was tent-making. When the two coincide I shd. have thought there was a danger lest the natural interest in one’s job and the pleasures of gratified ambition might be mistaken for spiritual progress and spiritual consolation: and I think clergymen sometimes fall into this trap.

Contrariwise, there is the danger that what is boring or repellent in the job may alienate one from the spiritual life. And finally someone has said ‘None are so unholy as those whose hands are cauterised with holy things’: sacred things may become profane by becoming matters of the job. You now want truth for her own sake: how will it be when the same truth is also needed for an effective footnote in your thesis? In fact, the change might do good or harm. I’ve always been glad myself that Theology is not the thing I earn my living by. On the whole, I’d advise you to get on with your tent-making. The performance of a duty will probably teach you quite as much about God as academic Theology wd. do. Mind, I’m not certain: but that is the view I incline to.


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