Maintaining a work/life balance is a modern-day incentive that competing employers often use when searching for their band of all-stars. Companies promise longer vacations, greater perks at the office including free food and a gym, staff retreats, television in the office, and a flood of other personal gratification enticements.
Major news outlets cover the work/life balance topic with fervor. A simple Internet search will result in anywhere from 4 to 37+ steps on obtaining a proper work/life balance. A few of my favorite steps included: unplugging, exercising, managing your time, and taking a vacation. Indeed, each one of these steps can be quite valuable when applied appropriately.
However, we are being conditioned to understand the phrase “work/life balance” with respect to the recipient’s needs and desires—enjoying the perks of his personal career ambitions yet not failing to enjoy his play and rest. The objectives of these plans are to promote health, emotional stability, and high productivity. Why are there so many systems, methods, and schools of thought on this topic? I propose this is primarily due to the self-interest of the source. There is one critical element to each one of these methods missing, and if applied correctly, this element solves the challenges all others are seeking to resolve. How to live life and perform work harmoniously must be understood in the context of Scripture. As patterns of life and work are practiced in light of God’s Word, we live a life pleasing to God.
Work is mandated, necessary, and beneficial. Work began in Genesis 2:15, prior to the fall, when God gave man the task to work the garden and care for it. This was a good thing; work was untainted by sin and commanded by God. Genesis 3 explains that sin has negatively impacted our work, but this does not change the necessity of work. In Exodus 20:9-11, we learn that God established a six-day work week with one day of rest. Work is for the good of others and not to be merely for our own personal fulfillment (see 1 Tim 5:8; Eph 4:28). God has also given man the ability to enjoy work’s rewards (Ecc 3:13, 5:18-19).
It is important to understand that an improper approach to work will lead to unhealthy habits, relationships, and worship. In Exodus 18:13-24, for example, we find that when Moses attempted to take on a daunting task of judging the nation of Israel with limited support, his father-in-law warned him of doing too much. Moses yielded to this counsel, sought help, and God blessed him for it.
We should also keep in mind that working for the sole purpose of monetary gain is in vain. The fruit of our labor must be from the Lord (Psalm 127:2; Prov 10:22). Ultimately, we must be on guard and watch out for the desires of the heart that draw us away from worshipping the Lord. Reflect on your true desires in life and where you look for comfort, identification, security, wealth, power, and entertainment.
But we must also be careful that we don’t overcorrect and advocate a minimal approach to work. We find wisdom in God’s Word with many warnings on idleness or laziness. A man who chooses to not work will certainly find himself without bread (Prov 6:9-11, 10:4-5, 14:23).
The balance to work, then, is rest. Our Lord is where we look for our example. God rested after creation (Gen 2:1-3). He instituted holy festivals in the nation of Israel. During His Galilean ministry, Jesus withdrew from the public work as well (Matt 14:13).
With an extensive list of things ‘to-do’, how and where do we start in evaluating the priorities in our life? Ephesians 5:15-6:18 provides an excellent picture of how we should manage our day to day lives. As we assess each aspect of our life, we need to remember to number our days (Ps 90:12). Time management is crucial. We must regularly review our priorities. How we prioritize and make a plan for execution differs from man to man and family to family.
Here is a practical exercise for evaluating our priorities and time management. Take a four week period of your life and account for every minute. Categorize sleep, ministry, work, eating, driving, watching TV, surfing the Internet, reading, and any other activity that consumes your time during a month. In a four week period, there are 672 total hours. If you sleep seven hours per night, 476 hours remain. If you work eight hours a day and have a one hour commute round trip, 296 hours remain (assuming a five-day workweek).
As you continue with this list you just made, it will be easy to see how quickly your time is consumed. If you are like me, when you first begin this assignment you will find many more hours accounted for that are not really available. Then this inventory will require you to take a look at the priorities in your life and assess how well you are fulfilling your God-given duties. After you have accounted for each category, list the priority number, 1-4, with 1 being a necessity and 4 being a want, and begin to sculpt a plan.
Being sinful men, we will struggle with this exercise. But our heart’s desire must be for the things of God before we will ever be able to put Him first. Even then we will not fully succeed on this side of heaven. Trade the desires of your heart that become snares or idols, replace them with worship, praise, adoration, and meditation of God. Spend time in the Word with your loved ones (wife, children, parents, friends). Watch God transform their lives. This will change you also. Schedule time with your family. Living in northern California has so many options to engage in meaningful and unplugged activities together—backyard games, beach, or the mountains. Plan some time together and keep to your commitment.
During the exercise, reflect on what motivates you to get up out of bed in the morning. Does this reflect the call of God to constantly renew your mind (Rom 12:1-2)? In all that we do, we are to do to the glory of God, both at work, and outside of work, including how we manage our time, resources, and energy (1 Cor 10:31).
Taken from James C. Petty. Priorities Mastering Time Management. (P&R Publishing, New Jersey, 2001).