Today: Monday, December 09, 2019

Giving it up for Lent #4 - working too hard!    (3/7/2010 1)

Did you hear the sad story of the American office worker who died at work and no one noticed? The man was at his desk, proofreading medical textbooks. He died on a Monday and, according to the New York Times, ‘nobody noticed until an office cleaner asked him on the Saturday why he was working over the weekend’.

His boss said, ‘he was always the first guy in each morning and the last to leave at night, so no one found it unusual that he was in the same position all that time and didn’t say anything. He was always so absorbed in his work.’

In Britain, too, we are ‘absorbed in work’; we work the longest hours in Europe. Last year, that was 7 hours a week longer than anyone else. When work takes over, the rest of life has to take a back seat. Overwork means that our time for family and friends—and for God—gets pushed out; creativity goes, and we get stressed and ill.

I have the sort of job that can always expand to fill the time available. There is always more to do; more expectations, more initiatives and more people who need time and energy. It can take over everything, and sometimes it does.

Last year for Lent, I gave up ‘being absorbed in work’. I decided to notice how I was using my time, and to try to live and work differently.

Each evening during Lent, I wrote in my work diary exactly how I had spent the time that day. I added up the hours and put the number at the foot of the page. At the end of each week, I added up the total hours, and drew a smiley face if I had reached my goal. My goal was to work no more than 50 hours a week; if that sounds a lot, I had been doing more than that and knew it was way too much.

Through taking note of my use of time in Lent, I discovered 3 things:

By writing things down, I thought more about what I was doing, so I stopped doing trivial, time-wasting things and used my (now limited) time for more important things. This focus reminded me of a saying of the Greek philosopher Socrates, ‘The unexamined life is not worth living’.

I spent more time with my family, and found time to do sewing and creative activities which I love and which provide space to think.

I also found time to walk and pray, and to read the Bible and meet with God in a relaxed way, not in the ‘fast-food’ rush that it had become.

In one sense, life became fuller, but it felt better because it was more balanced and more alive. I felt that I had rediscovered something of the abundant life that life in Jesus promises: “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full” (John [NT] chapter 10, verse 10). And Psalm [OT]  90, verse 12  says: ‘Teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.’

Try this for yourself—you could discover a new life this Lent!

Pray: Lord God, life is short - but it is your precious gift to me. Please help me to use the time I have wisely, and to remember to use the talents you have given me for my benefit and that of others. Amen.

Think about: If each minute of your life was worth $1, and you lived for 70 years, you would have $36,792,000. So if time was money, we would think much more carefully about how we spend it!

Challenge: Many Christians give away 10% of their income to causes they care about, including their church and various charities. If you gave 10% of your time to God, that would be nearly 2.5 hours a day! Could you 'afford' to spend more time talking to God each day, and getting to know him better through the Bible?

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