Resting“What do people do when their earnings are less predictable, their jobs less secure, and their incomes potentially higher or lesser than before? They work harder. Not only do they put in more hours on the job, they also work more intensively.” Robert . B. Reich

In his noteworthy book, The Future of Success, Robert R. Reich, University Professor at Brandeis University, analyses the new economy and its impact on our lives. Like many others, he observes that technological innovation and globalisation has resulted in a consumers’ market where those who can provide deals that are faster, better and cheaper, survive and prosper, while all others fall away by the wayside.

The end result for the individual worker is as he describes in the quote above. Reich confines his study on the American scene but workers in any urban centre around the world understands that datelines are getting more impossible, hours longer, the emotional and intellectual demands of their work increasing by the day. The potential financial rewards are also higher. So, you thrive on the challenges for awhile. Until the first signs of burnout appear. (Or until some down sizing/merger exercise leaves you without a job.) Work today is done at a killing pace.

Christians in the workplace are not spared the demands of the new economy. In fact the squeeze may even be harder on Christians as we try to honour God at work, at home , and in the church. We end up exhausted and often feeling guilty that we are not doing justice to any of our God given responsibilities. So we try harder and the first thing to go is rest since no one is cracking the whip for us to rest more. More often than not, the church adopts the values of the world. The one who is most macho/anointed is the one who can do the most with the least amount of downtime. But is this a biblical ethic?

In the Ten Commandments, God’s people are commanded:

“Remember to keep the Sabbath day holy. You have six days to labour and do all your work; but the seventh day is a Sabbath of the Lord your God; that day you must not do any work?” (Exodus 20: 8-10a REB)

Remember that this commandment was first given to an agricultural community. Anyone who has spent time on a farm will know the incredible amount of work involved in running a farm. Clearly God’s people are not to be slackers. Also clear is the fact that the divine pattern is one of work and rest. Both are to be taken seriously.

Indeed we note that the commandment addresses both work and rest. The two experiences are connected. What happens to one affects the other. You cannot neglect rest without impacting work. The delicate relationship between work and rest is hot wired into our very humanity. Even the business world is beginning to acknowledge this.

In her article, “Rethinking the Rat Race” (Business Week, Asian Edition/August 19-26,2002, 88-89), Diane Brady writes:

“?the high cost of overwork is fast becoming evident. Medical studies show a correlation between a lack of vacation and increased heart attacks or other illnesses. Long hours also take a toll on productivity. ?’At a certain point, there’s a negative rate of return,’ says Lawrence Jeff Johnson, a senior executive of the International Labour Organization?”

She concludes her article with these comments:

“With fewer boundaries to delineate time off, the risk of burnout can be profound. But the value of a balanced life is also becoming more clear. After all, in a complex and increasingly competitive global economy, the well-rested—and productive—worker is king.”

When will Christians fully realize that not only is God’s Word true, it is true to life. And for life.

Christians workers then should not apologize for wanting to protect a balanced life – with adequate time for work, family, church, and for rest. I think Christian bosses will have more to answer for. Are Christian directors, managers, HR leaders etc treating their people by God’s values or by the values of the world? The answer will impact their testimony. And the bottom line.