Workaholism

In this week’s Connected Kingdom, I take on the challenge of speaking about workaholism. Download the podcast or stream the audio to hear Tim and I discussing the subject further. Download here (right click) or click to play below.

Hello, my name’s David, and I’m a recovering workaholic. And I say that with no sense of pride, even though workaholism is one of our society’s most “respected”, even admirable sins. In fact, perhaps one of the places it is most admired is in the church, and especially in the Christian ministry.

Few Christians put this sin in the same category as homosexuality or murder. Yet, workaholism has probably destroyed more souls, especially in Christian homes, and maybe especially in pastors’ and missionaries’ homes, than either of these sins. Many pastors spend their days denouncing this -ism, that –ism, and every other -ism, while seeking and accepting plaudits for their workaholism.

Diagnosis
So how do you know if you are a workaholic? Workaholics Anonymous – yes, there is such an organization – provides 20 questions. They include:

  • Do you get more excited about your work than about family or anything else?
  • Do you take work with you to bed? On weekends? On vacation?
  • Do you believe that it is okay to work long hours if you love what you are doing?
  • Do you get irritated when people ask you to stop doing your work in order to do something else?
  • Have your long hours hurt your family or other relationships?

Does that sound like someone you know? Your pastor? You?

Causes
Idolatry is at the root of a lot of workaholism. Many make “work” their functional god, and it can be a very satisfying one too. It doesn’t just take; it gives back too. It often rewards with money, position, power, prestige, and praise

Other workaholics are motivated by greed. The work may be unsatisfying but the money sure promises to make up for it.

For some it’s all about escaping less pleasant, less “glamorous” responsibilities. Far easier to be a frequent flier than change diapers; to speak at conferences than speak to your teenage son; to chair board meetings than comfort your lonely wife.

For some, work is a matter of identity; it’s what defines them. In the 18th century most obituaries focused on the character of the deceased and rarely mentioned occupation. 150 years later, most obituaries assess a person in connection with their occupation and achievements. Probably explains many early graves as well.

Many workaholics are unable to trust God with their jobs and finances, and end up relying on excessive hours rather than on their heavenly Father.

Effects
Like all –isms, this addiction is a destroyer. It destroys marriages, relationships with children, friendships, and usefulness in the church. It destroys happiness, it destroys bodies, and it destroys souls.

And yet this destroyer is so deceptive, so plausible: “I’m doing it for my family…I’m trying to get my kid through college…I’m serving God…”

And pastors, I know, there are unending stories in Christian literature about how many hours famous ministers and missionaries worked. What many of the biographies don’t tell you is that many of them died young or suffered long seasons of disease and burnout.

Cure
The cure begins with cold turkey; take a full week off work, yes a full week, in order to examine yourself in the light of God’s Word. Ask your family if they think you’ve got work in the right place. How is your relationship with God, your devotional time? Listen to your body; is it bearing up under the stress or is it beginning to break up as you wear out your machinery?

Confess workaholism to God, and He will forgive you. He forgives all addicts who repent and seek mercy in Christ. Trusting in the finished work of Christ will bring a new calm, peace, and perspective into your life.

Then, to prove that your repentance is genuine, plot a future containing these elements:

  • Take every Sunday off work. If you are a pastor, designate any other day and stick to it. “Six days you shall labor” applies to pastors as well.
  • Memorize Psalm 127v1-2, and believe it.
  • Set a reasonable number of working hours per week (recent research shows a huge loss of productivity after 40 hours of work in a week).
  • Do not answer email or make work-related phone calls on vacation.
  • Schedule daily exercise and family time.
  • Remember your created limits. So much of workaholism is a defiance of the physical limitations that God our creator has imposed upon us.
  • Remember that the Lord has also put a curse on work. Knowing that fallen man would seek ultimate satisfaction in his work, rather than in Him, God built in “thorns and thistles and sweat” to drive man from work to Himself.
  • Project yourself to your deathbed. A hospice nurse recently said that she has not yet cared for a man that did not regret how many hours he put into his work.

Conclusion
As for the rest of us, let’s not encourage workaholics by praising their addiction. Would you praise a drug addict or an alcoholic? Do them a favor, call them to repentance.

If it’s a pastor, remind him that not only is he sinning against God by harming himself and his family, he’s also providing a damaging role model for other men in the congregation.


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Study Questions for Lit!

In last week’s “review” of Lit! by Tony Reinke I mentioned that I was preparing Study Questions for each chapter of the book to “encourage” my two teenage sons not only to read the book but to interact with it and apply it to their lives. We started yesterday and hope to complete it over the next few Sunday afternoons.

Here are the questions in both pdf and Word format. Feel free to take the questions and adapt them for your own personal, family, or congregational use (you’ll find a sample of the questions for the first few chapters below).

And while we are on the subject of literature, a young friend of mine has “a book review site for kids by kids.” You’ll find it here at There and Blog Again.

Sample Study Questions for Lit!

  • Most the questions are directly related to the content of the book.
  • The questions marked * are not answered in the book, but you should be able to answer them as you reflect on how to apply the book to your own life.
  • Some of the “questions” are partial quotes from the book that you should complete.

Foreword

What does C J Mahaney say is one of the evidences of conversion?

Finish quote: “Thinking deeply about the Gospel is the only way to…

Introduction

What are the three meanings of “Lit”?

What are the two main sections in the book?

Chapter 1: Paper Pulp and Etched Granite

What was the most important day in the history of book publishing?

What six characteristics make the Bible different from other books?

What’s the relationship between Scripture and every other book we read?

Name the two genres of literature.

Finish quote: “Before we step into a fully stocked bookstore we must…

*What proportion of time do you give to the Bible compared to other books?

Chapter 2: Wide-Eyed into the Son

What impact does sin have on our reading of the Bible?

What will transform the way we read the Bible and all books?

“Discernment is the ability to do three things.” What are they?

What does John Owen say is the difference between the knowledge of believers and unbelievers?

Finish quote: “Christian book reading is never a solitary experience but an invitation…

* Describe a time when your reading brought you into communion with God

Chapter 3: Reading is Believing

What modern trend is threatening book reading?

Why does God ban images in His worship?

What four ways make words better than images at communicating precise meaning?

What did the Reformation recover?

* What will you change in your life to make sure that words have priority over images?

Chapter 4: Reading from across the Canyon

What seven truths of Scripture provide the foundation for a Biblical worldview?

What is a touchstone and how does a Biblical worldview act as a touchstone?

What three rules help us decide which books to avoid?

* Can you think of any other principles to help you decide what not to read?

* Are there books you wish you’d never read? Why?

Download the remaining questions here (Word or pdf)


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Mercy for roadkill

What do you do when you find a perfect fishing pool, the ideal vacation spot, or a great new friend?

You keep it to yourself, don’t you; because sharing means less for you.

What do you do when you taste the grace and mercy of Jesus?

You want to tell others, don’t you; because sharing means more for you.

When King David was given the gracious Christ-centered promises of an everlasting King and Kingdom, he asked in utter humble awe, “Who am I, O Lord God?” (2 Sam. 7:18). Why me?

But one of his next questions was: “Is there anyone who is left of the house of Saul, to whom I may show the kindness of God?” (2 Sam 9:1,3).

Having tasted the grace and mercy of Christ through His covenant promises, he thought: “How can I best illustrate and demonstrate the kindness of God I’ve just experienced?

I know…I’ll try to find someone from the worst family in the nation, the family that’s my greatest threat and enemy, and lavish the greatest kindness upon him. That’ll be the best way of showing what God’s just done to me!”

You can imagine Mephibosheth’s thoughts when David’s servant Ziba knocked on his door and said the King wanted to see him. That could only mean one thing in those days. Neck, meet stainless steel.

What a traumatic journey as the lame man was carried helplessly and hopelessly into the King’s palace.

Then the sentence…

“Do not fear, for I will surely show you kindness for Jonathan your father’s sake, and will restore to you all the land of Saul your grandfather; and you shall eat bread at my table continually.”

WHAT?

Or as Mephibosheth put it: ““What is your servant, that you should look upon such a dead dog as I?”

When our dogs die, we cry. When these dogs died, people laughed. Dogs were pests not pets. They were vermin. The only good dog was a dead dog. And that’s what Mephibosheth felt like – a splattered, stinking, dog corpse that people shuddered to look at.

Yet the king not only looked at him, but scraped him off the ground, cared for him, clothed him, fed him, and sat him at the royal table continuously.

From roadkill to a royal son. What mercy?

I wonder if Mephibosheth kept the chain of grace going?

Have you?

Go find your Mephibosheth and show the kindness of God to him.

Because sharing grace means more for everybody.