Facebook, the Ashes, the BBC Sport website, Twitter, premierleague.com, BuzzFeed, Vine, Time Out, otters who look like Benedict Cumberbatch (it’s old but still tickles me). These are just a handful of the things which might crop up in my browser history in any given week. No problem so far. However, sometimes this happens during the working day when, you know, I’m supposed to be working.
Why am I outing myself as an occasional slacker when the myth I am supposed to be addressing is at the other end of the work productivity spectrum?
In the first instance – before I get too high on this particular horse – it’s as important for me to realise that I am as capable of and susceptible to procrastination-heavy trips down distraction-strewn lanes as the next person. Secondly, and more importantly, we need to recognise that neither slacking nor ‘working really hard’ necessarily honours God and earns us His favour.
Sometimes my work involves very long hours for days at a time; sometimes I work nine to five. Either way, I enjoy what I do. I am privileged to work in a Christian organisation that cherishes its staff, where my work is varied, my colleagues are a blessing to me, and the cake is plentiful. I have managers, but I know that ultimately I am working for the Lord – not because I work in a Christian environment, but because the Bible tells us this is the case (Colossians 3:22-25). Or at least, that’s how it’s supposed to be.
The problem is that my ‘head knowledge’ sometimes takes an age to become ‘heart knowledge’. Even then, it drips down gloopily, like an egg cracked on the top of your head. Surely, if I had a right attitude to my work I would be incapable of succumbing to distraction and fully focused on the task at hand, right?
Of course the truth is that although we know we should be ‘working for the Lord’, sometimes we struggle to do so. This might simply be because we need to stop being so wrapped up in the hustle and bustle of life or that we need to rest and sleep properly (note – outside of work). But we shouldn’t be constrained by a mindset that means we strive to earn righteousness or favour with God. We have been set free from that – free to serve God as those made by Him and through Him, for His fame and renown.
Paul outlines in Romans 8 that we are set free from slavery to sin and all that entails. This includes being free from an attitude to work which is fearful of others and assumes we can earn favour with God by working hard and hoping He notices.
Working like this will only lead to guilt when our day is misspent or our time poorly managed. It also corrupts the freedom found in Christ who has conquered fear (Hebrews 2:14-15). Yet this is a trap into which I and many others fall all too readily as we forget what the exercise of true freedom looks like.
I am unceasingly amazed by my own arrogance in thinking that there is anything I can do to make God love me any more, or less! Although I am a product of a me-centred culture I also share a big chunk of the blame. Our God doesn’t need us, but He does graciously, mercifully and wonderfully use us to work out His purposes. Our God sent His one and only Son to die in our place – He doesn’t need us to jump up and down to remind Him of the sacrifice made.
We go through peaks and troughs in our productivity at work which varies hour-by-hour from earnest Christ-focused working to wilful self-focused feet-dragging. Do I want to be productive? Yes, but I don’t want to be merely productive. I want be one who works “with sincerity of heart and reverence for the Lord… as working for the Lord, not for human masters” (Colossians 3:22-23).
In truth, I didn’t find this blog post particularly easy to write – particularly because I’m as likely to leap headlong off the bandwagon the other way and subsist on The West Wing as I am to overwork. However, getting the balance right between the myth and occasional slacker tendencies we might have is vital if we are to be free to serve the Lord in our day-to-day work.
Christians aren’t called to be workaholics and being one certainly won’t earn us favour with God. Rather, work is an act of service and we are called to be faithful.