Saturday, July 16, 2005

Work to live, or live to work?

You might want to put your toes under your chair for this one. I had to.

A survey released earlier this year of 7,718 American workers found that:

“[. . .] only 45 percent of workers say they are satisfied (33 percent) or extremely satisfied (12 percent) with their jobs. At the same time, a much lower number actually feel very "engaged" by their jobs. Only 20 percent feel very passionate about their jobs; less than 15 percent agree that they feel strongly energized by their work; and only 31 percent (strongly or moderately) believe that their employer inspires the best in them.”

“Increasing numbers of employees are coping with burnout (42 percent), while one-third (33 percent) believe they have reached a dead end in their jobs, and 21 percent are eager to change their jobs.”

“Nearly all workers were seeking more time off -- and a better balance between work and leisure” ("New Employer/Employee Equation Survey,” conducted by Harris Interactive, Inc.).

If this survey is accurate, this means that most American workers
are unhappy with their work and feel that what they are doing is
not worthwhile. How sad that we spend at least 40 hours per
week doing something that we’d rather not be doing, feeling
that we aren’t doing our best work, and wishing we were somewhere else.
I wonder, though, how much of the fault lies with the workers
themselves? Why do workers stay in careers they don’t really like?
(I’m not talking here about unskilled, minimum wage earners
who don’t really have much choice in their careers, but
college-educated or other skilled workers.) Why do so many
people not do what they really want to do?
I assert that most people do not have the career that they really want because they feel they must take the job that will pay the bills. They are not willing to sacrifice lifestyle in order to take a job that they will really enjoy. Lots of middle class Americans stretch themselves to the limit in order to live in a house that is probably too high-priced for their budget so that they will be in a “better” neighborhood. They buy or lease a new car every two to three years. They make sure that their kids wear the most fashionable clothes and participate in plenty of extracurricular activities (to keep up their self-esteem). They use up their savings to take a vacation to the beach every summer. Rather than scale back their lifestyle, most people would rather work in a career that they don’t really care for in order to live what society claims is the “American Dream.”

The sad thing is that a lot of Christians fall into this category. Although we know that Jesus called us to a life of sacrifice and servanthood, many of us believe that sacrifice means eating out only once or twice in a week in order to put more money in the offering plate on Sunday. I know that a lot of Christian parents will say that they work they way they do so that their children will have better lives and good opportunities, and I certainly understand that. We want to ensure that our children have good futures. However, if we really believe that God is in charge of the future, why aren’t we modeling the ethic of self sacrifice so that we can help others in the now? Why not work at a career that is more fulfilling or allows more family time and do without some of the perks that we have come to believe we are entitled to?

Perhaps the work we’d really rather be doing is what God intended us to do in the first place. He knows us better than we know ourselves, so he knows what is going to make us happy. He wouldn’t call us to a life of sacrifice if he weren’t going to make sure that all of our needs are met. He wouldn’t ask us to be servants if he weren’t going to make sure that we feel fulfilled in our work.

The other day, I heard a news story that gave me pause. I’m not sure about the exact details, but what is important is the essence of what the lady said. Some ladies make pies at church every Saturday and sell them in order to give the money to charity. One of the ladies, commenting on their endeavor, said something to the effect that while Christians aren’t supposed to feel good about their work for the Lord, she does feel good about what she’s doing. I guess the notion is that when we work for the Lord it should be a sacrifice, and sacrifice necessitates negative feelings. I think some people think that all pleasure comes from the devil.

Why would God call us to do something that we would hate doing? Psalm 37.3-4 says, “Trust in the Lord and do good; dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture. Delight yourself in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart.” He wants us to be happy and fulfilled, and when we seek to please him by being a true disciple, he will see to it that we are happy.

Sacrifice and servanthood are not ideas that society values as particularly appetizing, but is what society is serving up really satisfying our hunger for fulfillment? No matter how hard we try, we cannot bring our own fulfillment; true and lasting fulfillment comes from God.


JMG said...

Sorry about the different sized font and uneven margins. I had a terrible time with formatting on this post.

jettybetty said...

I think some of it is attitude--I believe God put me in the job I in--and He will use me there--so I love it.

It can get really complicated--what you have said here about why people don't leave jobs they don't like is true--however, there are so many variables--especially when kids are the picture--because you need insurance, and just the basics. Currently, we have 3 kids in college--our expenses are high--and perhaps we should just let them do it on their own--but it's something we really want to do for them.

I suppose I still think a lot of it comes to down attitude--I do think you can be a great anything and love what you do when you believe God is your boss.


JMG said...

Yeah, it really makes it tough when you throw kids into the mix. I can talk big because I don't have any, but I do understand. Parents may want to live in a certain neighborhood so that they can be in a good school district.

And things like health insurance are a big factor. It's easy to say we have faith in God, but we sure do want to have health insurance to back him up!

I complain sometimes about my work load, but I really do like my job--and things worked out so perfectly that I know God put me there.

Tony Arnold said...

I highly recommend the book Joy at Work by Dennis Bakke if you want to make sense of your work and your faith. They cannot be seperated although too many Christians compartmentalize these two areas. You can check out a few of my comments on the book here: Joy at Work;

or go to Mr. Bakke's book web site: Dennis Bakke & Joy at Work.

The postscript chapter at the end entitled "Enter Into the Master's Joy" is very powerful.


Jana said...

I just don't get the notion that the Lord's work would be unenjoyable (although it can be on occasion). I think God wants good things for his children, and it makes me sad when Christians think otherwise. And I think God even wants us -- horrors! - to HAVE FUN. I love the words of the wise and wealthy Solomon in Ecclesiastes: "So I recommend having fun, because there is nothing better for people to do in this world than to eat, drink, and enjoy life. That way they will experience some happiness along with all the hard work God gives them."