Workaholism

In this study we are using the term ‘work’ to refer to our living, our occupation, whatever it may be. The Scripture uses the word in this same way and speaks at length about work in this sense (Ps 104:23)  We have so far argued that the Bible teaches Christians to see their work as a service rendered directly to God and, for that reason, to see it as holy.  That means both that our working life is subject to the obligations of biblical holiness and that it must be done with the purpose of pleasing God. He cares about how we work and takes pleasure in our doing it as he desires it be done. Further we are to understand our work as an instrument through which God’s blessing comes to us.  So much of what God gives us – for nothing we have is not from him – he gives to us through our work, our daily bread and so much more.

We have considered the double perspective on work that we find in the Bible, one deriving from creation and the other from the fall. Work is, in the Bible, at one and the same time a futility and a fulfillment, a frustration and a satisfaction, a problem and a solution and our work will be and must be always both at the same time. Then we began to consider the Bible’s ethics of work: its specific teaching regarding the moral obligations that govern the working life.  We began with the general obligations of the worker: how men and women are to perform their work as doing it, in Milton’s phrase, “before their great taskmaster’s eye.”

Then, last time, we took up the general obligations of the employer or supervisor or boss.  In both cases we began by looking at the general statements on employees and employers found in Paul’s twin letters, Ephesians and Colossians.  We found that the cardinal principle in both cases was that employers and employees are always to consider themselves as working ultimately for the Lord.  Consequently, employees are to do their work in that faithful, honest, industrious way that is pleasing to him and reflects his holiness and goodness and employers – “in the same way,” as Paul puts it – are to treat their employees in that just and honorable way that reflects God’s nature and is true to his commandments.

I want to turn now from the general to the specific and consider some of the particular ethical issues or questions that our working life churns up, especially in our time. I want to begin this evening with the question of how great a commitment should be made to one’s working life.  Our question tonight is: at what point does the time and attention devoted to one’s work exceed the limits of what is proper for God’s people?

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Topics: Idolatry, Overload and Burnout
Church: First Presbyterian Church, Tacoma

About the Author

Rev. Dr. Robert Rayburn serves as senior pastor at Faith Presbyterian Church (PCA) in Tacoma, WA.