Cultivate a Balanced View of Work

IN THESE times of severe economic depression, a prime concern is having a regular job that guarantees sufficient income to cover the needs of the family. This is not always easy, especially when thousands of workers are being laid off. If you are one who suddenly becomes unemployed, the challenge is to take vigorous action to find another job.​—See the boxes on pages 8 and 9.

Still, there is much more to life than hard work. “Let’s face it,” says Glenn, a family man from Australia. “No one on his or her deathbed says, ‘I wish I had spent more time at work.’” Living a satisfying, meaningful life obviously involves making time for secular work. But for what else? For family, for recreation, and for spiritual needs. How can you care for these important areas of life in a balanced way?

Time for Work, Time for Self

The Bible tells us to work hard to provide for our family. (Ephesians 4:28) However, it also encourages us to ‘eat, drink, and see good for all our hard work.’ (Ecclesiastes 3:13) Indeed, working long hours without proper rest or recreation can rob you of many joys in life. It can also lead to serious health problems.

Chronic overwork has been linked to obesity, alcoholism, heart disease, workplace accidents,  drug dependency, anxiety, fatigue, depression, and many other stress-related disorders. Overwork can also be deadly. One report estimates that in Japan about 10,000 people die annually from overwork, as many as die in automobile accidents in that country each year. This phenomenon​—labeled karoshi, “death from overwork”—​stretches far beyond Japan.

Notice that the Bible wisely counsels: “Better is a handful of rest than a double handful of hard work and striving after the wind.” (Ecclesiastes 4:6) Yes, balance is vital. Do not let your profession become your obsession. Protect your mental, physical, and emotional health by taking time to rest and enjoy the fruits of your labors.

“We should work to live, not live to work,” says Andrew, a married man with three children. Balancing work with rest and leisure will also help you care for the needs of your family. But this is not easy, especially when you have bills to pay.

Balance Work With Family Life

Today many families are overscheduled and underconnected. “Work gets most of my energy and the kids get what’s left,” laments one woman from England. In the United States, 1 in 5 teenagers polled rated “not having enough time with parents” as their top concern. Another U.S. study reports that, on average, dual-income couples talk to each other only 12 minutes a day.

Fed up with the increasing pressure of work, many individuals are reexamining their  priorities and making changes. Timothy, a family man with two small children, relates: “I worked overtime, and my wife worked weekends. We hardly saw each other. Finally, we reassessed our life and changed our work situation. Now we are much happier.” Brian, a store manager, says: “With a second child on the way, I went looking for a job that would suit our family. I took a $10,000-a-year pay cut to get better hours, but it was worth it!” Melina gave up secular work when her first daughter was born. “It was hard getting used to one income again,” she recalls. “But my husband and I felt it was better for me to stay home with Emily rather than put her in child care.”

We must recognize, however, that many families have a hard fight just to cover monthly expenses. Some spouses are holding down two jobs just to get by, and in other cases both spouses are working, leaving the children with grandparents or at a child-care center.

You may find additional ways to balance work and family obligations. The key point is this: Do not forsake the joys of family life by placing too much emphasis on work.

Be assured that balancing your work, recreation, and family needs will bring you rich rewards. In our final article, we will consider an even more important ingredient for a simple, balanced life.

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Do not let your profession become your obsession

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“Better is a handful of rest than a double handful of hard work and striving after the wind.”​—Ecclesiastes 4:6

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Do not forsake the joys of family life by placing too much emphasis on work

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MONEY OR LEISURE?

Some 20th-century scholars believed that advancing technology would liberate people from the drudgery of work and usher in “an unprecedented era of leisure.”

In the early 1930’s, Professor Julian Huxley predicted that in the future no one would have to work more than two days a week. Businessman Walter Gifford declared that technology would give “every man the chance to do what he will . . . , the time to cultivate the art of living [and] enlarge the comforts and satisfactions of mind and spirit.”

But what about people’s material aspirations? Sociologist Henry Fairchild boasted that factories could “turn out more goods than we know how to dispose of wisely with an average working day . . . of not more than four hours.”

How accurate were those predictions? Economic growth during the 20th and 21st centuries was truly explosive. Theoretically, this should have reduced the workload significantly. Yet, what has happened? Writes John de Graaf: “[People] have taken all their productivity gains in the form of more money​—more stuff, if you will—​and none of them in the form of more time. Simply put, we as a society have chosen money over time.”