Americans are known around the world for their long work hours and high productivity. Because of the economic opportunities created by personal liberty, diligence is often repaid with generous financial rewards. Hard work is certainly commendable. The Bible says that “if any one will not work, let him not eat” (2 Thess. 3:10). But it’s possible to work too hard. That many of us are guilty of this is evident in the fact that the terms “stressed out” and “burned out” are part of everyday speech.
How can I know whether my work habits are healthy? Take inventory by honestly answering the following questions: Is working extremely long hours essential to my self-esteem? Do work-related problems often cause insomnia, haunt my dreams, and distract me when I’m home with the family? Do I find it impossible to sit quietly in a chair without feeling guilty? Am I proud of the fact that I never take full advantage of the vacation time offered by my employer? Saying yes to any of these questions may indicate that I’m living with an unhealthy stress level. Saying yes to most or all of them leaves little room for doubt.
This isn’t what the Lord wants for me. To protect the minds and bodies of his people, God gave this commandment at Sinai: “Six days you shall labor, and do all your work; but the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God; in it you shall not do any work” (Exod. 20:9-10). Although the Gospel of Christ includes no sabbath rest requirement (Col. 2:16-17), modern Americans need rest just as much as ancient Hebrews did. My refusal to enjoy the refreshment of rest may indicate an inappropriate ranking of priorities. Has work become my god?