One of the biggest surprises people have when I talk about holiness and addictions is when I bring up work as an addiction. Nowadays you don’t have too many people argue about it. Many people have been on the receiving end of people who work too much.
The song, “The Cat’s in the Cradle” depicts a young man who learns early on from his father how to be a workaholic and ignore his family at home. When the father gets old, he wants to spend time with his son, but the sun is too busy working.
None of us want this to happen to us. And yet it’s the last thing many of us think about when we were too much. There are different reasons people have to work so much, but our culture certainly doesn’t discourage it.
The Bible has a lot to say about our work ethic. Like everything else in our lives, the Lord has expectations for us concerning our work. But with everything that is addictive, he also requires us to have balance in our lives.
So many people in our society have become addicted to their work that people have made a name for them – workaholics. It’s a play off of the word alcoholic. It’s a person who is addicted to their work so much they don’t do anything else.
Americans have a strong work ethic. We believe in working hard. There’s working hard and there’s overworking. People have different reasons for taking overtime. But one of those reasons is because there workaholics.
If a person is doing their very best to provide for their family, having more than one job or working overtime hours to be providers, that’s one thing. This person is doing the very best they can to help their family survive.
This is not workaholism. It’s a show of responsibility, doing the hard things and sacrificing themselves for their families. Even in America we have many who must work more than usual for purposes like this.
But those who work way too many hours, true workaholics, can have several reasons. They may be lovers of money, which is against Scripture (1 Timothy 6:10). There are many more things in life than money. While it can be helpful, it can also lead to idolatry.
One of the other reasons I have found workaholics don’t want to go home even after hours is stress in the home or life in general. They’d rather be at work instead of dealing with their life problems. It’s the same thing as the alcoholic who stays at the bar and drinks himself silly so he doesn’t have to deal with reality.
Workaholism can be a form of escape. The problem is that you eventually have to face the music. Some people don’t think they can get out of their life problems. They don’t want to rely on anyone else or trust anyone else to help them. So they stay at work and don’t go home or deal with their problems.
Most people I have met aren’t usually happy in their jobs. Perhaps they didn’t get to choose the job they wanted when they began their career. Maybe they have to take on jobs they don’t enjoy to provide for their families.
But workaholics, whether they like their jobs or not, refuse to go home when it’s time to clock out. If you can’t leave your job when you should, you are addicted to work.
Your Most Important Work
One of the worst situations is a workaholic who won’t go home to deal with family issues. They stay at work so they don’t have to address character flaws, the anger of their spouses, or the chaos of their children. In some extreme cases, the family doesn’t want them there.
I didn’t grow up in a home that was anything like these scenarios. I have very little experience with how to deal with such things. But I know there are Christian counselors that can help you if you find yourself in any of them. It’s much better to get professional help than hang out at work.
You may be thinking they don’t want to see you at home. Maybe it’s just better to stay away. But your spouse and children need you more than you possibly know. It’s a different kind of work, home life, but it’s part of your calling.
Your children especially need your mentorship, leadership, and nurturing ability. It’s never too late to reset your relationships and commit to them. Even if they don’t realize it, they will be mentally, emotionally, and spiritually unhealthy when you stay away.
In those rare instances where they tell you to stay away, there may be some hurt or open wounds there relationally. These wounds do not close on their own. Time doesn’t really heal them. What heals them is resolution to the issues. There must be reconciliation.
Don’t forget “The Cat’s in the Cradle.” If you don’t start to reconcile your relationships in your family now, it will be too late later. Start today. Flip the narrative. Forgiveness must be your priority. Things won’t change until you step up and change them.
Your Heavenly Employer
So what does the Bible say about work? It all starts in the Garden of Eden. God gave man work to do before the Fall in Genesis 3. Work is not punishment for evil. It is a divine privilege. But when the Fall happened, God cursed work and made it much harder.
There are many Proverbs against laziness. We must avoid not working enough. Provision for our families and ourselves comes through a work ethic that glorifies God. How many hours a week is that? It may differ in pending on what you do and what’s expected in your industry.
This is one of those things you can take to the Lord and ask him what he expects of you. The Sabbath requires people to work six days a week and then rest the seventh day (Exodus 20:8-11). Many people in American culture work five days a week and then take off the weekend.
Once again, whatever the Holy Spirit leads you to do is the best thing for you. Paul teaches in the New Testament that if a person doesn’t work, they should not be allowed to eat (2 Thessalonians 3:10). God expects us to work because he made work as a good thing.
Through our work we receive one of our purposes in life. I don’t know about you, but I love to see progress in my projects. If I didn’t do any work, there would be no progress. I would feel like a large part of my purpose in life was not fulfilled.
As we work, we do it for the Lord no matter what the work may be. Paul tells slaves (the equivalent of today’s employees) to work as unto the Lord (Ephesians 6:5-7). We must work even when people do not notice what we do. We are not out to please people. We want to please our Lord.
Just because you don’t work in full-time ministry, like a preacher, doesn’t mean your work does not matter to God. In fact, he has put you where you are so you can serve others, and not just in your job.
Many people find God places them where they are to witness to others and help them understand God. More than this, many people are ministered to by Christians who take their work seriously and please God in the way they approach it.
Whatever you are doing you must do it as unto the Lord. He is watching you and is pleased with your work ethic. But he is even more pleased that you are being a good representative for him in your work.
The Bible has a lot more to say about work even then I could record in this blog post. Suffice it to say, you honor the Lord with a good and godly work ethic. Don’t be a workaholic who doesn’t address the issues of life.
Instead, in everything you do, please and glorify the Lord. Offer him the very best you have to offer. You are working for the Lord, not for other people. Leave a comment and share what you have learned about a godly work ethic.