In yesterday’s post on workaholism I mentioned five possible causes of this addiction:

  • Idolatry: the worship of work
  • Greed: pursuit of material rewards
  • Escapism: avoidance of less pleasant responsibilities
  • Identity: defining oneself by one’s work
  • Unbelief: distrusting God’s provision

Another reason crossed my mind today: enjoyment. And I think that’s often what drives many workaholic pastors – our work is so enjoyable, It’s not that way all the time, of course, but often we can find so much satisfaction and happiness in what we do.

An easy problem
It’s hard to be a workaholic if we hate our work. But if we love it, if we bounce out of bed most mornings, if we can’t wait to get into the study and then into the pulpit to share what we have studied, if we enjoy being with the sheep God has blessed us with, if we see God’s Word converting sinners and edifying God’s people, then overwork is going to be a much more easy problem to fall into.

In fact, sometimes the ministry is so enjoyable that it hardly feels like work at all.

So that’s OK then. If you love your work, and it’s good work like the ministry, then it doesn’t matter how many hours a week you put into it, does it? Enjoyment makes everything just fine!

No, it doesn’t. God gives us many good things to enjoy in this life – friends, hobbies, sport, music, etc. – but we must exercise self-denial lest these good and legitimate things become too prominent and too important in our lives.

Difficult self-denial
The same goes for our work, even for ministry work. At times self-denial will require us to clock off early and play football with the kids, or take a day off to help our wife paint the kitchen. It may not be so enjoyable as the books, but sometimes tidying the garage or washing the car is more pleasing to God than perfecting the next sermon.

If the main driver of our ministries is personal pleasure, to the detriment of our bodies, family relationships, and other responsibilities, are we that much different from the drug-addict?

  • Peter Ratcliff

    When I was ordained I was told not to work too hard or to spend too long preparing sermons. Having been at non-stop-study-seminary I thought it impossible at the time but have more come to appreciate the wisdom of my godly “father” in the Lord, a man who has himself worked tirelessly.

    I think it was good advice but if you listen to my sermons you would say I should spend more time. To that I would apologise and say that giving an “organised” sound to a sermon is not so much about time as about getting organised, not my best quality. Yet the clearest sermons are not necessarily the ones you have spent too long preparing. Yes you must get deep into the Word and prayer in preparation, but if you prepare too much you may just end up with a very long sermon with hundreds of points.

    Today I went swimming as usual but spent most of the time unintentionally “evangelising” as I was asked by new faces, “what do you do?” In reply to “minister” they all feel obliged to attempt to justify why they believe what they believe and on we went for a considerable time. I am sure this was a good use of time, probably the best work I will do all week, yet it came about by not working. Not that I am making an excuse for not working, but “being there” is our pastoral duty and there are 24 hours in a day.

    Nevertheless I am very wary of my deceptive heart. What may seem like a healthy hobby can become an idol. I knew a man who collected rocks and stones and had a wonderful collection. The pastime absorbed him and completely destroyed his ministry.

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