Laboring With Labor Pains - Part 3 - Why Do We Overwork?
The modern world has scrambled things so badly
that today we worship our work,
we work at our play,
and we play at our worship.
~ Os Guinness
Last time we continued a three part devotional about work. If you missed it, you can go back and catch the first part in the “Writings” page on our website.
In a recent ABC news story, “Americans work more than anyone in the industrialized world. And Americans take less vacation, work longer days, and retire later, too.”
I had never thought of this, but do you know what really changed the way we work? The invention of the lightbulb. Ever since, we have begun to take pride in and identify ourselves by how hard and how long we work. Work of all kinds can be done into the wee hours of the morning, every day of the week. In contrast to the "work all the time" mentality, listen to this principle for God’s people in the Old Testament:
Six days you shall do your work, but on the seventh day you shall rest; that your ox and your donkey may have rest, and the son of your servant woman, and the alien, may be refreshed.
Right alongside the commandment to not kill, not commit adultery, and not lie, we are commanded to work AND commanded to rest. Why do I emphasize the "and" in that sentence? Because the reason I tackled this subject was for me and Martha. We did not have a day of rest in our practice. It’s all well and good to refer to Sunday as a day of rest, but if you’re not actually getting some refreshment on Sunday, then you need another day in which to refresh yourself. So we found ourselves being run ragged, working all hours most days, looking forward to driving long distances on road trips to have some time to just be.
Now before some of you start screaming “sabbatarian” and rushing for the door to get away from the legalist, I know that this is the only one of the ten commandments that is not reiterated in the New Testament. This is no longer a law for us, but I intend to present it to you as rather a principle.
Why does God command us to rest? So that we “may be refreshed.” I submit to you that it is just as disobedient to ignore the principle of rest for refreshment as it is to be lazy. Fact is, in this culture, I think we find it easy to listen to someone telling us we ought to work harder.
The principle that is not talked about by the church is to exhort families to practice the Sabbath principles of rest and refreshment.
Let me ask you a question. When was the last time you asked someone how they are doing and you received a response anything like this?
“You know, we are really good. We took a day off and just didn’t go anywhere. We unplugged from social media, stayed at home, had family worship time, played a couple of board games, cooked special meals, and took a nap with the kids. I’ve not felt this refreshed in a long time.”
Ok, so I can tell you that I’ve never, and I mean never, gotten that response. If the person I ask is willing to go beyond the standard, “Doing ok, just busy”, what I’ve always got is more along the lines of…
“Keeping busy. Maggie is working full time now and we just moved. I finally got that promotion at work and it’s kicking my butt so far. The kids are starting back in school and I’m glad because the summer was crazy. Craig is in soccer and baseball, but he wants to start karate too since his friends are. Susan is still in gymnastics and dance, so we are going twelve different directions. We took a week long family vacation this summer, but you know how it is…we need a vacation after our vacation. We are running around like chickens with our heads cut off.”
Looking at the Word, I find three reasons why we overwork:
Love of Security
It is useless for you to work so hard from early morning until late at night, anxiously working for food to eat; for God gives rest to his loved ones.
Look at the example. God gives us sleep. There are things you need to do to get sleep. Maybe you need a dark room. Maybe you need to not have caffeine after a certain hour. Maybe you need to put special pajamas on. You need to do your due diligence. But in the end, do you make yourself go to sleep? No. God *gives* you sleep. And the same with the food you eat — you do your due diligence. You work heartily, as to the Lord, but knowing all the while that it is God giving you the food that you eat. God giving you the roof over your head. God giving you the clothes on your back. God is our security, not work. Anxiety about the potential future lack of things is not right. Jesus spoke to this one too — remember? “Fear not little ones, you are of more value than many sparrows.”
Love of Money
The Bible has a lot to say about this one so I’m gonna camp out here for a bit. I’ve had people misquote the Bible and tell me that “money is the root of all evil.” That’s not what it says.
For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs.
1 Timothy 6:10
Now, it is perfectly possible to be rich and be a Christian. Matter of fact, in the NT there are those who are designated as rich complete with large homes, businesses, lots of workers under them, but they are never once commanded to give it all away. The right to property is not a uniquely American idea. They got it from Scripture. However, every Christian, regardless of their economic status, is commanded to be generous and to help those in need.
Religion that is pure and undefiled before God the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.
Not only are we to be generous and to help the needy, we are told that we cannot "serve" money and serve God at the same time. The amazing thing is, that even given these Scriptures, you will still hear people, even church people saying things like: "I know money won't make me happy, but I'd just like to give it a chance." The truth is, if you did give money a chance to make you happy, a chance to fulfill your craving for it, you would find that you never had enough and it would never completely satisfy you. The trap with money or any other thing we expect to give satisfaction is that you alway think you need just a little bit more in order to be satisfied, and you end up eternally unsatisfied.
No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.
Love of Things
The love of things is related to the love of money, but they are two very different things. People who love money find meaning, security, even joy, in a large savings or investment account, but people who love things may have little or nothing put back, but have to own every thing they might desire.
Then Jesus said to them all, “Watch yourselves! Keep from wanting all kinds of things you should not have. A man’s life is not made up of things, even if he has many riches.”
So do you love your things? You say, “I don’t know.” Do you find your meaning in them? Are your possessions your life’s scorecard? If you had to sell the boat or that extra truck, would it damage your pride? Do you rack up extra credit card debt or work overtime for things that are desires and not needs; luxuries that make you on par with the neighbors or coworkers or Facebook friends? I know that some people are over a barrel and have to work x amount of hours to make ends meet, but the list of things that are deemed “ends that must meet” by this society seems to be ever expanding.
Don't believe that? Take a moment and let it sink in on you that the iPhone has only been around since 2007. That should blow your mind. But now you must be poor and/or backwards if you don’t have a smartphone for your own personal use, one for your spouse, and one for each child. That's just one thing out of many (internet, TV, Amazon Prime) that could be named.
Now, I own and use an iPhone everyday because of the work I do. I’m preaching sermons off of an iPad for convenience. Martha and I have Amazon Prime. There is nothing intrinsically wrong with these things. Matter of fact, they have been amazingly time saving for us and make running the ministry feasible. But the point is how and why do we acquire them? You don’t have to steal them to acquire them wrongly. Going into debt or working without adequate rest to the point that your family and spiritual life suffers in order to own them is wrong.
Recent studies show that the average child age 5 to 16 spends six and a half hours a day in front of a screen. Just let that sink in for a few seconds. Six and a half hours a day on average just looking at a screen. A few hours of church a week is not enough to cleanse their impressionable minds from the indoctrination of our schools and the images and ideas that are seared into their minds through the technology that surrounds them constantly. Now ask yourself why they are there in front of those screens for that amount of time? Where’s Dad? Where’s Mom?
Do you see the picture? How easy is it to be trapped into believing you have to have that promotion or that second job, not because the family is starving or they are gonna cut the lights off, but because we have to measure up to what our peers are able to afford?
This Ray Stevens song sums up my point beautifully:
Itemize the things you covet
As you squander through your life
Bigger cars, bigger houses
Term insurance for your wife
Tuesday evenings with your harlot
And on Wednesdays it's your charlatan analyst
He's high up on your list
You've got air conditioned sinuses
And dark disturbing doubts about religion
And you keep those cards and letters going out
While your secretary's tempting you
Your morals are exempting you from guilt and shame
Heaven knows you're not to blame
You better take care of business, Mr. Businessman
What's your plan?
Get down to business, Mr. Businessman
If you can
Before it's too late and you throw your life away
Did you see your children growing up today
And did you hear the music of their laughter
As they set about to play?
Did you catch the fragrance of those roses in your garden?
Did the morning sunlight warm your soul
Brighten up your day?
Do you qualify to be alive
Or is the limit of your senses so as only to survive?
Spending counterfeit incentive
Wasting precious time and health
Placing value on the worthless
Disregarding priceless wealth
You can wheel and deal the best of them
Steal it from the rest of them
You know the score, their ethics are a bore
Eighty-six proof anesthetic crutches
Prop you to the top
Where the smiles are all synthetic
And the ulcers never stop
When they take that final inventory
Yours will be the same sad story everywhere
No one will really care, no one more lonely than
This rich important man
Let's have your autograph, endorse your epitaph
You better take care of business, Mr. Businessman
Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.”
I know poor people who are rich because they are content and rich people who are poor because they will never experience contentment. I know people who have massive amounts of stuff, who are always accumulating more, never satisfied with what they have, and I know people who have very few possessions, who are content. I know people who seek security by sacrificing family time to work, to get the promotions, to fill the investment accounts... who are filled with fear that at any moment the economy will crash, or the world will come to an end, or they will lose their job. And I know people who, like the Proverbs 31 woman, laugh at future times, secure in the Lord.
So what's the take-away? Here it is: Don't ignore your need and your family's need for refreshment in order to seek security, wealth, or things. Take your abilities, the chances you have to work, and the opportunities you have to better your position and use them to provide for your family within the confines of a reasonable work week.
When that is done? Dote on your spouse, read a book, pour into your kids, be an active part of Christ’s body, make your favorite meal, serve in the church, take a nap, volunteer at a charity, get together with friends, pray, untether from social media, study God’s Word, invest in your extended family, sit out in a field and marvel at God’s creation. Take a day to deliberately enjoy the life that God has given you.