As Christians, we’re not just forgiven of our sins so that we don’t go to hell. We’re also brought into a new way of life and given the resources to live according to God’s ways. Our faith isn’t just a safety precaution – it’s a daily guidance. And so God’s Word addresses all kinds of nitty-gritty details and gives us wisdom for everyday life.
The topic today comes from Proverbs 10:22 and has to do with work. More specifically, it has to do with the common problem of overwork.
Translating Proverbs 10:22
The blessing of the LORD makes rich, and he adds no sorrow with it.
– v. 22
The way it’s worded in the ESV makes it sound like God’s blessing makes rich and He won’t mix any sorrow into it. However, many biblical scholars would argue that this verse could also be translated another way:
The blessing of the LORD makes rich, and toil adds nothing to it.
– v. 22
Based on a lot of careful research, this second translation seems to make more sense. It shifts the focus from what God’s blessing does and doesn’t do to the question: “What makes people rich in this life?” The Lord’s blessing makes people rich, not human toil.
Wise people know that wealth is a gift of God. Therefore, they don’t trust in their own toil instead of Him.
Work Is a Good Thing, Overwork Isn’t
Work is a good thing – it was present in the garden of Eden when things were still perfect. Adam and Eve were instructed to work, but after they sinned, work became difficult and painful. Every kind of work now has it’s unique frustrations.
The fool toils instead of trusting God. This kind of person voluntarily overworks in pursuit of wealth.
Overworking Out of Necessity
Now some people voluntarily overwork themselves. Many other people, though, don’t have a choice – they have to work really hard. Sometimes it’s due to financial issues. Other times it’s just part of the job expectations.
If you’re in a position where you have to work really hard, don’t feel condemned. But know that it’s not wise to voluntarily continue that way. We’re not built to withstand it. If you’re an overworked employee, it would be wise to talk to your boss about it. If you’re in charge of employees, try not to develop the expectation that they should be available 24/7.
Overworking Out of Pride
Some people overwork because they have to. Other people overwork because of pride. We can often get really proud of our individual accomplishments and say things like “Nobody changed the world on 40 hours a week” (Elon Musk).
Overworking Because You Can’t Say “No”
Some people voluntarily overwork, some don’t have a choice and others do so out of pride. Still, there are some people who just don’t know how to say “no.” We can overcommit for many different reasons and forget our limitations.
The average American family only spends 37 minutes of quality time together in a day (studyfinds.org). This kind of lifestyle isn’t healthy – even non-Christian scientists recognize that and express concern. Overcommitment is not only unhealthy, it’s foolish.
The Wise, Christian Way to Work
Whatever it might be that tempts us to toil instead of trust in the Lord, this Proverb points us to the alternative. When it comes to work, one dangerous extreme is laziness. The other dangerous extreme is overwork. But working wisely means working hard while remembering that it’s really God’s blessing that makes rich.
Ultimately, God is behind our work. It doesn’t all depend on us and it’s foolish to think so. Without the Lord, our hard work is in vain (Psalm 127:1-2). So as Christians, we can stand out by working the hardest but trusting the deepest. We can be productive and at peace. God is at work 24/7 – we don’t need to be.
How are you tempted toward overwork?
Why is overcommitment foolish?
How do we trust God when it comes to work?
What’s something you can do to remember this wisdom?