Does it honor God to abuse our bodies with overwork?

It’s gotten to be almost trite, cliche in the world, “can’t burn the midnight oil, the candle at both ends”. Did God make us to work 50 plus hours, to some people that would be a short week, constantly on call, always in touch via computers, cell phones. Sure, once in awhile you have to stretch. Finished graduate school 4 years ago, oh yeah many a time when that paper had to be finished and it needed to be finished that night it was an all-nighter. 29 years in the Coast Guard Reserve. In the Coast Guard reserve you were expected to augment a unit where your training was applicable to. I was trained on boats doing search and rescue and law enforcement. Especially after I was activated, but even doing reserve duty, there were many times where you could be working all day and be out all night, getting bounced around in lousy weather, having to be alert to save lives and property or enforce laws. Often this would be miles off shore in frigid weather for most if not all the night. Even in my corporate life trips would start early in the morning, end late at night and require late hours to do what was necessary in order to resolve issues with the customer.

Things haven’t gotten easier, technology means we’re on call at all hours, text messages, e-mail can be worked on and even responded to until all hours. Downsizing is across the board, few sectors of the economy haven’t seen a reduction of people which requires the remaining souls to pick up the slack.

Pastors are certainly not immune to emergencies at all hours and each one requiring asap attention. In addition to the needs of my congregation I am a chaplain for the York Police. I’ve responded to, mostly deaths, late at night, also the parent of a sexual assault victim. Our jobs have worthy reasons  to put in long hours, but what happens when it becomes routine instead of the exception.

An article in Inc Magazine by Jennifer Alsever (Feb 2014 p 54) cites the following research:

“Research shows that making your staff wok marathon hours does more ill than good…

67% increase risk of developing heart disease for workers who put in 11 hours a day vs eight.

3X increased likelihood that those who work 50-plus hours a week will develop an alcohol abuse problem. [I think I’m the exception, no interest whatsoever, but you can certainly see how it would happen – Jim]

50% of employees are less productive as a result of stress

20 hours without sleep is equal to a 0.1 blood alcohol level, which is the equivalent of five or six dirnks (for people 160 to 180 hours).”

As a pastor I would hasten to add the loss of family time (ya, just ask my wife), you betchum that causes some stress. I hasten to add that odd/long work hours keep people from worship, either because they’re working or recovering thereof. Not to mention the lack of participation in other church activities. In my experience this causes a separation from church and the nurturing of being in the presence of the Lord and with brothers and sisters in Jesus. I have definitely seen it result in further separation and eventually just completely dropping out. While many want that relationship, they feel awkward just showing up once in awhile. Heck imagine a relationship where you show up once in awhile, go through the motions and run out the door at the earliest opportunity. Too often it just becomes an excuse, work isn’t really that demanding, but they just don’t want to deal and it’s a great excuse to the pastor. I’m kind of amazed at the excuses, actual and created, I know people shouldn’t have to, I’d much rather they gave me the blunt truth, but wandering away is just easier.

I would hope that if people are in that situation that they let me know. Their physical, mental health is a vital consideration when work life overwhelms your time, but spiritual health is also going to take a serious hit. Separation from the church, from the Word, from the Sacraments, from the support and encouragement of fellow Christians is going to take away ones spiritual strength and just turn them into an asset, a working machine. Long amounts of time dedicated to work is dehumanizing and subtly separates us from the spiritual nourishment that is so necessary to His creation who are made in His image. God doesn’t need rest, but He took time to set an example for us who are in desperate need of rest, by requiring us to observe the Sabbath.

Talk to your pastor, help him to see that you’re in need and need his help to keep you spiritually strong. Help him to think out of the box for worship opportunities, maybe just a time of prayer for two or more of you. Time of study that you could share on line, but something that keeps you connected. Maybe the church could have prayer for those who are separated for various reasons. But simply fading out is not acceptable, it contributes to the deterioration of your fellowship and we are commanded to meet together in Christ’s church (Hebrews) and we are not doing ourselves any favor by missing the revival, restoration and refreshment of being in the presence of the Lord with Christian brothers and sisters.

So let’s discuss, Wednesday morning 10am at the Green Bean Coffee Shop the corner of W King and Beaver Sts in downtown York. Park right behind the church and walk east about 4 doors.

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