For centuries in the West, we have pursued life in the context of the “Protestant work ethic.” Although we may not know a formal definition of the term, we all know that hard work is important. My grandmother used to affirm hard work by saying, “Aren’t you smart?!” Working hard is smart. No argument there.
I recently read comments about Alexis de Tocqueville’s observations on American society. In Democracy in America (1835), the Frenchman notes many of the qualities that made America a great country. But he also notes that Americans work constantly. From the earliest days of our country there was a very high value placed upon being industrious. We still praise those who work 80 hour weeks.
I believe that we should work hard. God gave Adam work to do, even before the Fall. Work is good.
But God himself rested after six days of work. Rest is good. God made the Sabbath for man, Jesus said. Somehow in our culture, we have lost the notion that rest is good. Even in our leisure, we feel that we must be active. Ever returned from vacation so tired that you couldn’t wait to get back to work and rest?
I believe that we need to place above the Protestant work ethic a new, higher ethic. We need a Christian life ethic. This ethic encourages us to work, to rest, to love God wholeheartedly, and to love those around us. Life is more than the work we do. Real living has more to do with relationships than accomplishments. Ironically, when our relationships are good, our accomplishments are even better. But the things close to our hearts are relationships, not points on a résumé.
A Christian life ethic takes into account our full spectrum of stewardship. It includes work and rest, and every aspect of life. How well do we receive and give love? How fully do we experience joy? How well do we demonstrate the peace of Christ ruling in our hearts? How well to we reflect the glory of the God who dwells in us through his Spirit?
Let’s work hard. And let’s remember that there is more to life than work. Let your life ethic promote real living – in you and others. Jesus came that we might have life, and to have it overflowing! How’s your life ethic?