The equilibrium between laziness and workaholism

Written by William Dmytrow

In our society today, we associate someone with their work. It’s usually the first thing we learn when we meet someone. If your aunt isn’t asking you how your work is going, she’s likely asking you what you’re going to do with your life.

A brief history of work

For most of world history, people didn’t think about their identity being tied to work the way we do now. Businesses were mostly family-run and were tied to the home. Work flowed out of the family and was largely focused on providing for basic needs. It wasn’t identified by individual success. 

Before the 1700s we would have identified someone by their family heritage or where they were from. For example, Jesus’ everyday job was as a carpenter. But in Scripture, he wasn’t usually described as “Jesus the carpenter.” He was known as “Jesus of Nazareth” or “Jesus the son of Joseph.”

But fast forward to the Industrial Revolution in the 1700s. There was a paradigm shift. We began to take work out of our households and separated work almost totally from our home and families. And although this seems relatively normal now, it wasn’t the dominant narrative for most of human history. 

What’s happening today?

Today our North American culture is pushing us to find all our value in our work. 

For instance, Elon Musk serves as the CEO of not one, not two, but four companies. On Twitter, he claimed that to actually make an impact in our society, “workers should put in 80 to 100 hours a week to ‘change the world.’” Musk then drives home his point by adding: “Nobody ever changed the world on 40 hours a week.”

This is not normal. Even the electricity that lights our homes allows us to extend our days in ways our ancestors could not.

Putting our identity and life in our work sets an unbearable pace, a heart that results in emptiness, and a lifestyle that does not line up with the ways of Jesus. 

Why we need a new identity

As someone who has just recently begun a vocational career as a pastor, I feel the tension of putting my life identity in my work and not in my walk and relationship with God. But our worth is not ultimately found in our work or what we do. If we cannot accept that our value has been placed on us by Christ, we cannot learn to have a healthy relationship with work.

First, we need a balanced perspective. I think work is essential and something we need to value. The trick is finding the line between not wanting to work at all and placing all our value in our work. When we can find this balance between laziness and workaholism, we can put our value in God first and only, yet also follow the call God puts in our lives to work and add value to His kingdom. 

Second, we can spend time on non-work activities. These other interests can involve things that are good for your body, like making healthy meals or exercising, or good for the soul, like engaging in meaningful friendships and doing good for others.

I’ve found that consistently making time for non-work practices allows me to remember that there are more things in life than just my work. We need rhythms of rest, as God’s direction to keep the Sabbath indicates. Sabbath reminds us that we aren’t the centre of the universe. It puts us in our rightful place and allows us to see God in His. 

Ultimately, I don’t believe individual success is the end goal. Rather, the end goal may look more like glorifying God and enjoying Him for life.