In 2012, I started thinking more about the nature of work. Why? Because 2012 was a lot of work. On top of my regular tasks directing the Global Justice Program, I finished writing Go and Do, I criss crossed the U.S. speaking and promoting the book, and traveled a lot internationally–about 150,000 miles. It was exhausting.
Where I work everyday.
The problem with working a lot is that its a black hole you can’t always escape. The more you work, the more downtime makes you you feel paranoid that you should be working on something. Law school, in particular, ruined me. I recall Christmas break during my first year of law school–I struggled to relax because I felt like there was always more to do. That feeling has never really left since.
My day usually consists of your typical work day. I often work through lunch if I don’t have a meeting. After work, I spend a couple hours training toward my triathlon goals: an hour in the pool with Masters swim class, a 6+ mile run, or a bike intervals. I enjoy it, but it’s a definitely work. It’s hard to get in the pool when its freezing outside or keep running beyond the point where I’m indescribably bored. After training, I go back to work. Answering email, writing, and developing other projects until bedtime. As I write this, it’s Sunday night, and I’m at Starbucks working away.
The reality with work is that this isn’t going to get any easier for any of us. I’m thirty, so I’ve got another minimum of 35 years of work ahead of me. The way things are going in the world, it will probably be more like 45. And, with the cost of living, there’s little chance for downsizing the workload. The future is more and more work.
So, this year, I’ve been thinking about whether work is good. Am I working too hard? Or, am I not working hard enough?
Here’s my thesis: We’ve been conditioned to believe the perfect life is one of leisure–a long vacation–and that’s wrong. Instead, we are MADE for the PURPOSE of WORK, work is good, and we should work more, not less.
If you’re a person of Christian faith, we have a view of heaven as “paradise” (Luke 23:43 – “I assure you, today you will be with me in paradise.”)–and when we think of paradise we tend to think of beaches, hammocks, and fruity drinks served in pineapple glasses. Thus, we view work as the result of a broken world. And, consequently, we’re hearing a lot about taking more rest. I’ve seen a influx of books on sabbath rest. I’ve heard many sermons about how we’re too busy and working too much. And, I agreed with them. Working less sounds great, and work not at all sounds even better. An acquaintance once admitted to me their dream was a life of “leisure and philanthropy.” Hey! That sounds pretty good, I’ll take that too!
In the throes of this summer’s busy-ness, I was reading Proverbs. Proverbs struck me as unequivocal about the nature of work:
- Proverbs 12:11 – Those who work their land will have abundant food, but those who chase fantasies have no sense. (NIV)
- Proverbs 13:4 – Lazy people want much but get little, but those who work hard will prosper and be satisfied. (NLT)
- Proverbs 14:23 – All hard work brings a profit, but mere talk leads only to poverty. (NIV)
- Proverbs 18:9 – One who is slack in his work is brother to one who destroys. (NIV)
Hmm… I like food, prospering is good, and I’d prefer the opposite of poverty. Clearly, there’s a tension between our life of work and How do I reconcile my notion that work is bad with this admonition that work is good. And, this isn’t just a call to simple work, but “hard work.”
This is only the start of a series where I’m exploring the topic of work for myself. It’s my own journey to reconcile this tension. I’ll be looking, as much as possible, to scripture, philosophy, and the classics. I look at blogging as a way to debate things I’m thinking about with public accountability, but I do welcome input.
My thesis again, is that we are made to work, and to work hard. (With sabbath rest, of course.) The perfect, most fulfilling life is not one of relaxation, but one of work .