Work-life balance

Work-life balance

You’ve probably heard the term “work-life balance”. It is a mythical creature, the perfect combination of work and the rest of your life. It is what all progressive companies want to offer their employees, and what every employee wants. In Perth, at least, the perfect work-life balance probably means to have lots of time for fun and family and recreation, and the work can fit around the rest.

There is a problem with the term “work-life balance”. Can you see what it is? The very term assumes that work is not part of life, or at least not a part of the important part of life. Work is something that gets in the way of life. We need to cut the work back to find room for life. That’s an unhealthy way to think about work. Yes, overwork is a problem, but seeing work itself as the enemy is unhelpful and incorrect.

Overwork is a major problem in modern society. We all know it. There are families who don’t see much of either parent. I have spoken to a number of older, successful people who now see that their previous work habits have significantly damaged their relationships with their children. It is easy for us to focus more and more on our work over time and damage the other parts of our lives through neglect.

What does the Bible have to say about this? Some really useful and counter-cultural principles:

  1. Work is a good thing

Work itself is not the enemy, and we should stop thinking of it like that. God works. God made people to work. Yes, it can be repetitive, it can be draining, it can be challenging, or it can be boring. But it is a good gift from God that we were made to do.

2. We should be working more than we rest

The Biblical pattern was 6 days work, one day rest. Of course, we like the resting part! Many would make the balance the other way around, with 6 days of rest and one day of work. The reality is that we should be productive in this world that God made for us. When we work, we appreciate rest more. Any balance that seeks to remove productive work from our lives (such as a retirement only consisting of leisure) will be harmful to us.

3. Overwork shows where our treasure is

When we spend all our time working, thinking about work, or exhausted from our work, that reveals something of our hearts. Where our heart is, there our treasure is also. It might not feel like we are prioritising work over family; it might feel like we are being responsible with our career. But in the end, actions speak loudly, and it would be sad to have a great career but nothing else of value in your life.

Any discussion about work needs to be nuanced a little bit. Some have no control over their working hours. Some work hard in the home and not paid in an office. Some have complete control over their schedule. We are all different. The principles will apply differently to different people.

How should we think about work? Remember, it is a good thing, not the enemy. Remember this on early Wednesday afternoon when the day drags on, that this is a good gift and you should work at this as if you were serving God. And if you suspect that overwork is an issue for you, ask those closest to you for an opinion. You are too close to it to make an impartial assessment.

Work is one part of a full life. An important part. Let’s work with joy and be thoughtful about how we balance work with other aspects of our lives.