As I’ve meditated on my own tendency toward workaholism, I’ve asked God to deliver me. It’s not been a simple or easy journey, but it’s been an interesting one. But when I re-read the parable of the marriage feast with fresh eyes, I realized how deeply entrenched I was in working past nightfall.
Jesus tells the story in Matthew 22:2—14 of a man preparing a wedding feast for his son, comparing the kingdom of heaven to this lavish celebration. The father invites all sorts of noble folks, sending servants twice to request they’d come. I’m fascinated by the response: “They paid no attention and went their way, one to his own farm, another to his business” (verse 5).
They pursued livelihood in lieu of the feast. They chose their farm or business over a celebration. I fear I do the same—when I work late hours while my children need help with homework, when I fret more about making ends meet than meeting with the significant people in my life, when I measure my worth more by production than interaction.
What’s a workaholic to do? How do we learn to accept the Father’s invitation to the feast of His presence? Three ways:
One. Recognize your livelihood.
God is our provider, not us. He cautions us in Deuteronomy 8:17—18a: “Otherwise, you may say in your heart, ‘My power and the strength of my hand made me this wealth.’ But you shall remember the Lord your God, for it is He who is giving you the power to make wealth.” Perhaps those invited to the feast trusted solely in their own ability to provide for their families, so they returned to what they thought to be their livelihood. And in doing so, they also missed spending time with the father and his son.
Later in the Deuteronomy passage, Moses warns the Israelites not to worship other gods (verse 19) because it results in destruction. Jesus highlights the dichotomy in terms of whom we choose to serve—the money god or the Almighty God. “No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth” (Matthew 6:24). Some workaholics serve wealth out of fear. They trust in themselves to create their family’s livelihood. We can shift our allegiance from trusting in ourselves and our salaries to trusting in God our provider.
Two. Pay attention when someone invites you to a party.
God often sends folks our way to winsomely invite us to his party. And often these folks are our children. My children have called me away from the desk numerous times. I wish I could say that I listen, that I always rush to attend to their need of the moment. But I’m learning to. Because when I do, I see life more clearly, imbedding this truth into my soul: relationships are more important.
Pay attention to the people in your life who woo you away from overwork. Don’t resent them as intruders; welcome them as companions. They’re God’s ambassadors, revealing your allegiances, challenging the way you spend your time. Jesus had an important ministry with demands aplenty. The disciples understood this. So when children crowded onto His lap, the disciples rebuked those who brought the kids his way. Jesus said, “Permit the children to come to me; do not hinder them; for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these” (Mark10:14).
Isn’t it interesting that the parable of the wedding feast is about the kingdom of God, and here Jesus says the kingdom belongs to children? Heed the children in your life; they are the gatekeepers to feast.
Three. View work as a tool for the kingdom.
When I shared what I learned about the parable of the marriage feast and how it related to workaholism, my husband had an interesting observation. He said, “Maybe the problem is that we view our work as the feast, reveling in our own self sufficiency. But our vocation is actually a means to the feast since it provides us with opportunities to connect with others and walk by the Spirit.”
Our vocations are not everything, nor should they border on obsession. But viewed rightly, they become a means for us to experience the kingdom where we are. To love our co-workers. To earn money to give away. To brush shoulders with a hurting world.
It’s not easy to untangle workaholism from our souls. Instead of viewing the process as a laborious denial, perhaps seeing it as an adventure of feasting will help us say no to overwork. The invitation to be a part of God’s wedding party is extended. The question is, will you feast?
Questions for you:
• Do you think of yourself as a workaholic? Do others think of you this way?
• How many hours did you work last week?
• How do you experience the kingdom of God in your work? In your relationships with coworkers? In the excellence of a job well done? In a product or service that helps others?