Kill is quite a strong word isn’t it? But I think it’s probably true – those who want to be about the work of the kingdom of God can end up losing it all because we make the work the most important thing. It’s a trap I think I fall into on a daily basis, but at least I’m starting to realise the trap is there in the first place.
I notice it when I start another piece of work instead of heading home, when my schedule fills up and my quiet times fall down. Work takes over, preaching becomes a task not a privilege, pastoral meetings become chores not opportunities to grow in compassion, prayer becomes an obligation not a passion. And yet all the time the jobs just keep on growing, the to-do list never shrinks, the wheels keep turning and if you’re not careful they grind you down. My guess is that no matter what your profession this can happen, but it’s quite dangerous if your profession is ‘shepherd of God’s flock’ (1 Pet 5:2).
When work becomes an idol, personal relationships can suffer, when work becomes the number one thing, we end up making sacrifices in all the wrong places. Even the options seem limited or non-existent. That’s another trap I’ve spotted.
What’s the solution? Sometimes I confess that I have no idea, I’m as all at sea as the next person. But I wonder if the clues don’t lie in the direction of seeing life as a gift (have a read of this Promise of Life) and realising that my job today is not to achieve, nor to strive, but to obey and to trust. I am not God and that’s a good place to start learning. But I must remind myself of this truth daily, I am not God nor is my work, my money, my home, my relationships, my hopes and ambitions. I must cast down the idols within me.
As I do that, I begin to find rest and grace from God to do the best I can. To love my family, serve my church and work through my inbox and if I don’t get it all done, who knows maybe there’s tomorrow. I do all this in His presence, with Him throughout my day, sometimes I remember that and sometimes I don’t. It’s easier when I do.
For some excellent words on idols and not just casting them down but replacing them with a greater affection read Tim Keller’s Counterfeit Gods. Review coming soon.