I am increasingly convinced that being an “obsessive worker” is the most common addiction among people in Christian ministry. Obviously, this condition occurs among all people regardless of their occupation or religiosity. In fact, in English, the term “workaholic” is already part of the common vocabulary since it represents a reality that is increasingly present in our societies. But it is easy to become an obsessive worker and disguise this situation with piety and good intentions. In the same way, it is very attractive to dive into work and blame God or God’s work as an excuse for this situation.
Work is good, and being able to work is one of life’s great blessings. Many of us have the enormous privilege of doing what we like and also receiving a salary for it. In fact, the word “vocation” refers to a calling or mission in life. In this way, when we can unite our work with our vocation, we find an important sense of value and meaning that is difficult to find in other areas of life.
It is also important to recognize that there are many people who, due to different circumstances, do not enjoy the privilege of combining their vocation with their work. Many have to work on what they can not necessarily on what they would like to do. There are also many who by necessity work longer hours than they would like or have to have several jobs in order to survive. In these cases, talking about work addiction would be absurd and even offensive.
Yet for many others, work is a very attractive refuge. These people live to work and their value is primarily focused on their occupation. Workaholics have no time for hobbies, rest, and others. It’s easy to justify ourselves with busyness at work and thus pushing aside the ones we love. There are even some who solely focus on their work to avoid dealing with other problems or people.
I live surrounded by obsessive workers. In fact, sadly I have seen that most professors, pastors, and others in ministry tend to be workaholics. Ironically many are so busy in the “work of God” that they do not have time for “the God of the work” and for their neighbors. Paradoxically, trying to live serving God they turn away from the abundant life that God offers through Jesus. Recently I came across a phrase by the British Reginald Somerset Ward (1881-1962) that made me think about the tragic nature of work addiction and motivated me to write this article:
I would warn you against the sin of overwork. Many of you seem to think it is right to misuse the strength God gives you. The result of such misuse is that you break down and cause a great hindrance to God’s work, wasting the talent He has entrusted to you. Overwork among conscientious souls is a far more real and frequent sin than laziness, and we ought to be more ready to suspect it and guard against it than we are. You need eight hours in bed and one day a week free from work if you are to give God your best service. Are you securing this amount of rest? If you are not, there ought to be very serious questioning of your conscience in the matter. (Morgan, Edmund R. Reginald Somerset Ward: His Life and Letters. London: A. R. Mowbray & Co., Ltd, 1963, p. 81-82.)
Workaholism is such a subtle and accepted practice that it seems like virtue and not a sin. If you are not getting enough sleep, if you feel guilty when you are resting, if you are never satisfied with what you have achieved, if you tend to despair or be irritable when you are with your loved ones, then it is very possible that this addiction has already trapped you.
If so, I encourage you to think deeply about this situation and make the necessary adjustments to overcome this condition. In fact, work is a good servant but a terrible master.
Nota: Puede encontrar la versión en español aquí: