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.]

Responding To Change

responding-to-change

A wise man once wrote:

There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens: a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot, a time to kill and a time to heal, a time to tear down and a time to build, a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance, a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them, a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing, a time to search and a time to give up, a time to keep and a time to throw away, a time to tear and a time to mend, a time to be silent and a time to speak, a time to love and a time to hate, a time for war and a time for peace, (Ecclesiastes 3:1-8).

Life is rhythmic. Change is a constant. Seasons change. Babies grow up. Prized possessions tarnish and break down. Friendships cycle through changes. Viewpoints shift. Minds change. Hearts get pulled in different directions. Passions fade only to be replaced by others.

In my mind, there are two main postures I can choose to embrace toward change. I can be a tortoise. Or, I can be a caterpillar.

When a tortoise sees a threat, he simply withdraws into the safety of his shell. And, even when he’s not faced with impending doom, he’s not really moving that quickly to begin with. He’s moseying along. He isn’t preparing. He isn’t taking personal inventory. He isn’t surveying the horizon. He’s just thinking about his next meal and trying to stay out of trouble, valuing stability and security.

Change is intrinsic to the caterpillar. It’s part of her nature, her DNA. She spends her days munching away on green leaves. She’s preparing, gaining strength, looking for a great place to build her cocoon. Then, when the time is right, the process begins. Sometimes I wonder if the metamorphosis is painful for the caterpillar. Her entire body changes: old parts are discarded, new parts form. Then, the struggle. She twists and turns, strains and heaves. Then, eventually, the first ray of light pushes through the cocoon, she forces her way out and she is free. She’s an entirely different creature ready for an entirely new kind of life.

I want to be a caterpillar.

I’m in a season of change. I really want to embrace the fact that this is a part of life. It’s more of an opportunity than a threat. And, in the end, it may be more of a blessing than a curse. I believe there are four things that I must keep in mind—each a necessary part of the formula—while going through this season of change.

1. Rest.

It is time to slow down. Not just tap on the brakes, but pull over to the side of the road, put it in park, turn off the engine and lean back in the seat. I’ve been given a gift and it doesn’t include 50-hour weeks, early mornings, late nights, worry, responsibility and deadlines. I have to seize the opportunity so I can …

2. Take stock.

It is a time for prayer, Bible study, quiet introspection, writing in a journal, blogging, long talks with Kelly and discussions with friends. It’s a prime opportunity to take stock of who I am, how God has wired me, what he has prepared my family for, what the world needs, and how I can make an impact. I have a chance to be prepared to …

3. Step into the unknown.

I’ll be the first to admit that stepping out into an uncertain future is scary to me. I like comfort and security. (I tend toward being a tortoise at times.) But, this is a chance that I wouldn’t have been afforded if not for the previous season coming to an end. What is next for me? I’m not sure; but I’m excited to find out. Until then, I must …

4. Remain faithful.

I’m sure there will be both good and bad days. There will be days when I long for the security I once had. I’m sure that Satan would like nothing more than to use this as a way of gaining a foothold in my life. But, I know that if I cling to God, we’re going to be absolutely fine. And, like the caterpillar, I might be stunned at what’s just on the other side of this season of change.

Sure, like Solomon advised, I’ll take time to weep, uproot, tear down, heal, mend, be silent and make peace. Then, I’m so excited to begin planting, building, laughing, dancing, embracing, searching, speaking and loving.

It’s all good.

God’s in control. Change is a part of life. And, I’m excited to see what it brings!