Thursday 23 April 2009

Balancing Work and Life

My recent post that posed the question "Are bloggers robbing their our employers?" by blogging at work (here) led to some comments that touched on the nature of work and its relationship to life. So I thought it might be helpful to point readers of the blog to the latest edition of Case magazine that has the theme ‘City Life’. In this issue Tim Chester offers a short article titled ‘The Busy Christian’s Introduction to Busyness’. As the name suggests, it offers an introduction to his book with a similar name 'The Busy Christian's Guide to Busyness' The article and his book offer some helpful advice to those of us who struggle to maintain a right balance between work and the rest of life.

The main focus of Chester's article is the need for a balance between work and rest. He argues, that the Bible teaches “that work is good and rest is good”, and points out that in our modern world we have two dominant and competing ethics, a work-centred ethic and a leisure-centred ethic.

The work-centred ethic says work is good and leisure is bad or work is central and leisure is peripheral. The leisure-centred ethic says that leisure is good and work is bad or leisure is central and work is peripheral.

Chester suggests that both ethics are exploitative.

“The work ethic is the ideology of capitalism. It’s designed to create a willing workforce to enrich the owners of the means of production. It not only justifies overwork, it makes it a moral good! …….But the idyllic life advocated in the leisure ethic is equally exploitative. It’s only really possible at the expense of other people’s servitude. Greek and Roman leisure was built on the backs of slaves. And the new leisure ethic feeds of other people in the same way – whether it is the state or the family or exploited workers.”

He points out that in contrast to the work-centred ethic and the leisure-centred ethic, that the Bible presents us with a liberating God-centred ethic in which we work for the glory of God and we rest for the glory of God.

The goal is more than a balance between the two. The goal for both is the glory of God. Neither work nor rest is ultimate. some people rest to work, others work to rest. But in the biblical worldview God is ultimate. He gives value to both work and rest. Both are to be relished, enjoyed and used for God’s glory. ‘Whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God’ (1 Corinthians 10:31).

He concludes his Case article by suggesting that defining work-life balance may not be as complicated as we imagine. The Bible gives us a clear pattern and that pattern is six days of work and one day of rest. Rather that a yearly (or even life) pattern of work and binge rest, he argues that we would be better to ensure that we adopt a weekly pattern to life, and to build opportunities for work and rest on a regular basis.

You can view an excellent 2 minute video from Tim Chester on the main ideas in his book below.

Upcoming Seminar on ‘City Life’

CASE will be running a discussion session on the latest edition of Case on Thursday 30th April at the New College Village in Sydney. Roberta Kwan and I will offer some brief comments on our own contributions to Case #18 and then we will invite discussion on the theme and papers in the magazine. You can find more details here.

You can download my introduction to Case #18 here.

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