As a pastor, I have tried to help members of our congregation to live less chaotic lives. In the past, I’ve talked about the need to balance work and life.
In a culture that celebrates the workaholic, pastors see too many people making work into an idol; they become too busy for family or church. When elders and deacons are sought, too many people turn down the opportunity to serve because their lives are too hectic.
The churches I've had a privilege to serve have had the most success in ministry when we've helped make families healthy. We’ve offered tools and resources for stronger marriages. We’ve had seminars on better parenting skills. We’ve created environments where people can become friends so that they can encourage each other to live with the right priorities: to family, to church, to service.
The thinking of much of church ministry is this: We need to help you strike the right balance in your life. Sure, work is important. It is the means by which you feed and shelter your family; it is the way you create wealth so that you can support church ministry and overseas missions; it is one of the venues in which you are called to share your faith with unbelievers). But remember that work is not that important. In an age where people overwork either on purpose (because they find too much significance in their work, or are greedy and want to live a more extravagant lifestyle), or because it is thrust upon them (because of the need to pay mounting bills and debts, or because with downsizing, less people are now needed to do more work, and if you want a job you have to work more than ever before), church leaders feel the need to find ways to help congregants balance work with the rest of life.
But here’s the rub: When we set work aside as if it were on one side of the scale with family and church on the other side, we have made a terrible mistake. In an effort to help, we are only exacerbating the problem—because we make work out to be contrary to and even opposing the “important” things in life. When that happens, work gets moved into a category that is separate from the Lordship of Jesus Christ.
What if, instead, we embraced the biblical understanding of the kingdom of God, in which God rules over all of creation? What if all of life is meant to be “spiritual,” even our work life? What if our pastoral ministries not only helped people serve in the local church and help create healthy families, but actually made sense of the work world as well? What if we attempted to rid ourselves of a fragmented view of life?
My teenage daughter Kaira has been playing violin now for a few years. As I listen to her practice through her closed bedroom door, I enjoy the sound of the bow gliding across the strings, creating a beautiful melody. Sometimes that melody is instantly recognizable, and I hum along. But at other times, I can’t identify the tune. What is she playing? Often it is not the main melody, but a progression of notes that will add to the harmony.
Listening to the full symphony orchestra is different from listening to just Kaira playing her single violin. The instruments complement each other, creating chord progressions that go toward a destination. There is a definite goal that the composer had in mind, and we are on the journey as we listen.
Think of God as the composer of our lives, with all the various aspects of our living in this world as different instrumental parts. Sometimes the flutes are the center of our attention, playing a sweet melody that is accompanied by the strings and brass playing harmonies. The music makes you smile as it skips along with joy. But then the brass takes over and with minor notes makes you anxious because you know of the tensions of living in a fallen world. The other instruments continue to play, and in fact, there in the back somewhere is that hint of joy still playing. The strings begin playing the main melody and the others play harmony, and a whole new dimension of the piece is exposed.
It is all going somewhere, though. It is all working together toward a goal based on the succession of the chords’ root relationships. Even though I couldn’t understand it when I listened to just one instrument outside Kaira’s door, the composer did as he wrote how the various instruments will create the symphony.
Work, Family, and Church (and anything else in our lives) are all part of that grand musical score. Let’s not think of balancing one of these over-and-against the others. Let’s create a rhythm that makes it all work together for the glory of God.
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Post by Bob Robinson, Faith Editor for The High Calling and the Executive Director of The Center to Reintegrate Faith, Life, and Vocations. Follow Reintegrate's tweets at @re_integrate and Bob's personal twitter at @Bob_Robinson_re