The English word "vocation" was accepted from the French language which evolved from the Latin word "uocationem" meaning a calling or invitation.
Mathew Fox makes a distinction between "jobs" and "work":
Some politicians, looking for a quick fix, shout that we need "jobs, jobs, jobs… Under the pressure of the world economic crunch that is creating a worldwide depression , the grave danger looms that we will seek only jobs - jobs at any price-and ignore the deeper questions of work such as how, why, and for whom we work.(1)
A similar distinction was made several years earlier James A. Pike:
[In a vocation] our status is that of junior partners in a firm, not that of employees. There is a new level of involvement in concern and a responsibility which trensends punch clocks and manuals of regulations. The essential difference is that between working for and working with.(2)
Roger and Rebecca Merrill stress the importance of context in determining how one regards worK:
A story from Italy tells of a Priest who speaks to three sytone cutters working on his church on a hot summer day. The Priest asks the first:
"What are you doing today, My son?" he asks the first.
"I am cutting stone." says the first.
The Priest asks the second man "What are you doing?"
The second replies "I am earning 100 Dollars a day."
And once again the Priest asks the third man, " What are you doing?"
The third man replies, "I am building a cathedral
There are different motivations for working. Some work to provide themselves with food and sheltyers - the necessities of life . Some work to provide their loved ones, greater financial security and material posessions and an enriched lifestyle.
Others see their work as their calling, their vocation, theor service to others.
Martin Luther King Jr. indicated,
If a man is called to be a street sweeper, he should sweep streets even as Michelangelo painted, or Beethoven composed music, or Shakespeare wrote music. He should sweep streets so well that all the hosts of heaven and earth will pause and say, here lived a great street sweeper who did his job well.
In Kenora we have such a gentleman who by Winter clears the Market Square property of snow and Ice, and by summer contantly sweeps and cleans up.
On more than one occasion, as he has been going about his work of cleaning up and sweeping around the chip truck in summer, I have heard tourists commenting positively: "This man does a good job.", "Kenora should be proud of his efforts." This is a man who has a vocation - not merely a job.
What is the relationship between "vocation" and "purpose". Vocation follows from purpose. Purpose starts with the notion that we have some freedom to choose who we are, who will be, and what we will do with our lives. We can make a difference. What is our life to be used for. What we will stand for and against.Purpose provides meaning for our lives. Why do I get up in the morning? Why do I go to work?
At the same time purpose follows vocation. Vocation determines and in turn is determined by purpose. What is my calling. Once I have decided what my calling is I know what the purpose of my life will be. The two evolve together.(1) Fox, Matthew (1994), The Reinvention of Work,New York: HarperCollinspublishers,1994,Page 3