If you’re anything like me, you know that you have to be intentional about learning how to rest. It’s hard for some of us to downshift. Some have a bent toward laziness and others a tendency to overwork. Phil Ryken has made the helpful observation that busyness stems from the same sinful root as laziness. Both are sinful manifestations of an idol of control. When we overwork, we try to control of our own lives and guide it to a selfishly motivated outcome. We are trying to secure what makes us feel good in life. Those who are lazy do exactly the same thing as those who overwork. If Satan can’t get us to try to do so by the vehicle of laziness, he will do so by tempting us to burn the candle at both ends. There is a sense in which just as those who are lazy need to turn to the Lord in repentance and faith and work hard at learning to work, so those of us who are inclined to overwork need to turn to the Lord in repentance and faith and work hard at learning to rest. In order to grow in our ability to rest, we must know ourselves. We must be able to examine the patterns of our thoughts and actions. After all, the Proverbs tell us that “the prudent considers well his steps” (Prov. 14:15).
Know Your Context
Additionally, if we are to overcome our sinful tendency to overwork we must first be mindful of the way in which our culture encourages overworking. Tim Keller, in his sermon “Work and Rest,” makes the following observation:
“The most workaholic culture in the history of the world (that’s us!) dare not turn up its nose at any effort–even misguided efforts–to giving to people one of the things most crucial to making life even human, which is rest…The modern situation means that the eternal human need for rest is enormously aggravated. Let me give you four trends:
A. More and more, at least in Western culture, jobs are insecure. Jobs, whole departments, if they don’t perform and if they don’t turn profit, they’re eliminated. There has never been a culture where job security has been so bad.
B. There has been a lot of research done on the fact that where it used to be that people at the top of the company used to make maybe 10 or 20 x what people at the bottom of the company make; now, it’s more like 100 to 200 x. And partly as as a result of this, to some degree, increasingly, people who make large amounts of money and it’s expected to put in enormous numbers of hours–it’s just expected. If you don’t want to do it, there’s a line behind you. Whereas people on the bottom are having to take multiple jobs. So everybody’s overworked. It doesn’t matter where you are on the scale. In order to make ends meet, they have to take multiple jobs.
C. Technology. Ah, technology! You can work anywhere, which means now, we work everywhere. It means you can’t stop work from spilling out of every nook and cranny of your life.
D. Whereas traditional societies said that you got your meaning in life from your family, and through fulfilling a fairly prescribed social role–. And work wasn’t as important as that. You define yourself. There’s never been more sociology and emotional pressure on work.