Do You Live to Work or Work to Live?

Do you live to work or work to live? We live in a world in which people typically err on one of two extremes when it comes to the elusive work-life balance.

Some live to work

It’s not uncommon for people—whether they wear a white collar, a blue collar, no collar, or even in a pastor’s collar—to work 60, 70, or 80 hours a week. When I was in college, I worked as a courier at a law firm. Several partners and associates had couches, blankets, pillows, and spare suits in their offices because they regularly spent the night. Last week, I spoke to a medical student who easily clocks 70 hours each week and rarely gets to see her husband and child. Some are required to spend many hours at work. For the majority, obsessive work—and the success, status, wealth, and accolades it brings—is a choice.

Some work to live

We tend to think that this is the holier of the two extremes. However, sometimes it is simply an excuse for laziness or the result of a time-consuming hobby or a commitment to maintain the façade of a life of wealth and leisure. I worked at a nonprofit organization in Indy several years ago. I was amazed by how anxiously my coworkers watched the clock each afternoon, waiting for happy hour to begin, and by how much they talked about the weekend they just completed or the weekend they were planning. They didn’t want to be there. And, their attitude was reflected in their work.

I’ve reflected upon this question a lot of times: Should I live to work or work to live? I have come to believe the answer is “Yes!” We live to work and we work to live.

Three essential truths apply.

God shaped us to work and create

God formed us in his own image and placed us within an intricate system that requires our care, cultivation, and stewardship. He also placed us in a lush paradise full of inspiration and with plenty of space in which to dream, create, build, and express ourselves. God’s creation mandate charges us with the responsibility to rule over the earth as his representatives, to fill the earth, to subdue it by bringing it into order, and to make it a place in which humanity can flourish. It is a good, right, and holy thing to give oneself to honest work that provides for people, creates excellent products, and contributes to the common good. We are being faithful to God when we work well.

God shaped us to require rest

God established a rhythm for life when, after creating the heavens and the earth, he rested on the seventh day and made it holy. Did God rest because he was exhausted? Absolutely not! He possesses immeasurable, inexhaustible strength. The Creator did not require rest. But, because he knew that his creation and the creatures therein would require regular relaxation, reflection, and recreation, he set aside one day a week and commanded those who worship him to honor it. We are human beings, not machines. And, as such, we require a regular routine to remember that we depend upon God, to enjoy time with the people he has put in our lives, to enjoy the world he created for us, to re-calibrate our hearts and souls, and to worship him.

We must resist making work or leisure an idol

Our sinful bent toward idolatry—giving the honor, praise, and priority to anything that is not God—is really at the heart of this whole issue. Work is a false god. Free time is a lousy lord. Neither deserves to reside on the throne of our hearts. That place is reserved for God alone. If we’re serving either the god of work or the lord of leisure, we’ll never experience the peace, purpose, and wholeness we can only find in Christ.

So, as a stranger and alien, how do you spend your work time and free time? When you’re at work, work with all your heart as if you’re serving the Lord and not just your boss or your board (see Colossians 3:23-24). When you have free time, let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, be thankful, reflect on God’s great love, and do it all in the name of Jesus (see Colossians 3:12-17).

Christian friends, we live to work. We also work to live. And we do it all to the glory of God.

[This post originally appeared on the PCC staff blog.]

Fireflies And Wonder

fireflies-and-wonder

Driving home late last night, I noticed firefly lights in the fields beside the highway and was captivated by the sight of them whizzing past the passenger window.

It’s amazing how many of my happy memories are tied to fireflies and summer nights.

I remember catching them in the back yard. I’d run around armed with a glass jar with holes punched in the lid and a tuft of grass in the bottom. I believed that if I caught enough I could use the jar as a nightlight at bedtime.

I remember sitting at the campfire at my church camp. I would watch its embers rocket toward the treetops above me as firefly lights burned in the forest around me and over the edge of the lake.

After summer Vacation Bible School, my friends and I would play tag in the five-acre playground, lot, and wooded area in the back of the church property as fireflies floated all around us.

Have you ever stood at the edge of the woods on a humid June night and found yourself amazed at the thousand incandescent points of firefly light dancing in the darkness?

It’s an incredible sight, but completely unnecessary.

Have you ever thought about that?

It’s true! The only possible purpose for fireflies has to be to make us feel wonder. Why else would they exist? There’s probably an insect enthusiast who would tell me that their function is to spread pollen between plants or to feed bats. But, surely they could have accomplished their purpose without illuminated rear ends.

Fireflies and wonder. There’s no other possibility.

Driving home last night, I was impressed by the fact that I worship an utterly benevolent, loving Creator. He didn’t have to give fireflies their lights. They’re completely unnecessary. They could have been just another species of insect simply doing their thing. But, I think God knew there would be a little boy who would gather them in a jar, watch them dance at church camp, admire them while playing tag with his friends, and experience the type of awe and wonder that would well up into worship as a grown man.

God is just that good.

What about you?

What seemingly simple or unnecessary bit of creation makes you experience wonder? Have you told God how grateful you are?

Introverts And Wonder

introverts-and-wonder

In the introduction of her excellent book, Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking, Susan Cain points out that introverts are more likely to ask what-if questions than extroverts.

That’s me!

Truths about Introverts and Wonder

I didn’t know this tendency was in any way tied to my personality. But, I’m glad it is! While it might be more natural for introverts like me to wonder about stuff—to ask what-if questions—it’s a discipline that is central to so many things for all of us. Here are just a few:

What-if questions are essential to creative endeavors.

Innovation simply isn’t possible without the ability to ask what-if questions. What if I pour lemonade into my iced tea? Bam! The Arnold Palmer is created. What if we strapped some brave people to a rocket and pointed it at the moon? Bam! The space age is born. What if we could put a personal computer in every home? Bam! Microsoft and Apple make billions of dollars. What if we speed up these atomic particles and make them collide? Bam! … Bam! You get the idea. Every creative innovation or endeavor begins with someone who asks a what-if question.

What-if questions can be powerful catalysts for spiritual growth.

I recently glanced over the notes in my Bible app and was astonished by how frequently I use phrases like, “I wonder” and “what if.” I believe wonder is a central characteristic of people who place themselves on a trajectory of spiritual growth. When we begin asking those questions, we begin a dialogue that opens us up to new ways of seeing things and it helps us better internalize and apply what we’re reading so it becomes a vital, living relationship with the Creator and not just a cursory, religious activity.

What-if questions are a key characteristic of people who lead.

A leader has to be someone who is constantly asking what-if questions. Questions about direction. Questions about resources. Questions about vision and values. Questions about the future. In fact, the alternative to the willingness to ask what-if questions for a leader is stagnation, inertia, the status quo. It takes bravery for a leader to ask what-if questions, even more courage to act on them. But, they’re essential for leaders and their organizations if they intend to move forward.

As a proud introvert, I’m excited to read the rest of Quiet and to continue asking what-if questions as I move into the future.

What about you?

What if you were to ask more what-if questions at home, at work, at church and in your relationships? I wonder what might happen as a result?