Christian Vocation: The Big Questions 2: Can I achieve Work-Life Balance?
This series of blogs is considering the issue of vocation. What does the word mean to a Christian? Does it just relate to those in full time Christian work, those in caring professions, or to all of us regardless of what work we do? Question 1 pondered on whether faith changes the way we approach work, and if so, how? (See Gill's previous article here)
Question 2: Can I achieve work-life balance?
This is a question which defines our view of work. We see it as something that has to be held in balance with the rest of our lives – our family time, our leisure time and our church time. We divide our lives up into so many defined boxes, each with its own parameters. Then we devote time and energy to becoming expert jugglers, making sure that none of the boxes collide.
In doing so, we’ve created a false dualism: work/life, secular/sacred, as though work is some sort of nuisance that we have to endure in order to provide for ourselves and have time for the things that really matter. We consider ourselves blessed if we have jobs that we love and which give us fulfilment. But what happens when work fails to fulfil us or validate us? What happens if our work fails to provide us with a desired social status or provide a particular standard of material living? It’s the route to frustration; a route on which we have no choice but to accept our work with impatient resignation.
God says otherwise – God says that work is His design for our lives. It doesn’t matter whether we are running a global company or doing the family’s laundry – it’s all work and God invests it all with a value it cannot, of itself, achieve. When we see our work in this way, social status, validation and personal satisfaction are just outcomes; by-products, rather than expectations or key drivers of our work choices. Everything we do is dignified by God and our work becomes one of the ways in which God blesses our lives and, through us, blesses others.
The Hebrew word for work is avodah , but it’s a word with multiple meanings. Exodus 34:21 uses the word in the context of work: ‘Six days shall you labour’. The same Hebrew word is used in Psalm 104:23: Then man goes out to his work’. But in Joshua 24:15, the word is used with a completely different meaning: ‘choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve’. The word is used again when God gives Moses a message for Pharaoh: ‘Let my people go, so that they may worship me’ (Exodus 8:1). In Hebrew, the word avodah represents a single concept of work, worship and service. Consider that in the context of your work. When you think in this way, balance is no longer an issue. It becomes less a matter of how your work will impact on your church and prayer life, and more a matter of what God wants you to do next to fulfil His purpose through you. Paul urged the Corinthian Christians: ‘So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all to the glory of God’ (1 Corinthians 10:31). Work is worship is service – do it all with the same clear purpose.
So can we achieve work-life balance? Yes. When we stop compartmentalising our lives and see all that we do as integral to God’s purpose for us. In his letter to the Corinthians, Paul wrote: ‘You show that you are a letter from Christ, the result of our ministry, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts’ (2 Corinthians 3:3). Each of us is just one letter, not several. In order to be distinctive in the workplace, we need to ensure that our letters really are written with the Spirit of the living God as we live out the values of God’s kingdom in every aspect of our lives.