Does the Bible say anything about workaholism?

"Workaholism" is the practice of placing devotion on a career, job, or ministry to the point of obsession. Often, workaholics will pour themselves into their work with no energy left for anything else in their lives. They rarely rest and may even begin to view friends in light of their career rather than as friends. While the Bible does not mention workaholism specifically, biblical principles can shed light on how we are to treat workaholism.

By nature, work is not bad, and hard work is even encouraged in the Bible (Proverbs 6:6). In Genesis 2:15 we see that God placed Adam "in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it." Meaningful work is part of God's design for humans. Ministry work is important; Jesus told us to pray for workers in God's harvest because "the harvest is plentiful" (Luke 10:2). However, as Christians, the work itself is not the point. Instead, work is part of God's plan for our lives. It is a part that we should do diligently, but our primary focus is Christ and becoming more like Him.

God also gives us the gift of rest and recreation (Genesis 2:2; Mark 2:27). He wants us to spend time in fellowship with other people (Hebrews 10:24–25). We are consistently told to love one another. We are also told to spend time alone with God, meditating on His Word. If we are consumed by our work, we miss out on close relationship with God and with others.

Many times a person becomes a workaholic out of anxiety. Jesus assures us that God knows our needs and will provide (Matthew 6:25–34). Certainly we are to work and not be lazy (2 Thessalonians 3:10–12), but we do not need to anxiously devote all that we are to our jobs. Instead, our hearts are devoted to God. Our work is done in submission to Him and for His glory.

Other times workaholism is motivated by greed. We are warned that the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil (1 Timothy 6:10). Jesus encouraged His followers to store up treasures in heaven (Matthew 6:19–21). Our paychecks do not have eternal value. Money is a necessary and useful tool in this life, but money cannot purchase meaning. When we work only to inflate our bank accounts, we fail to invest in things with true eternal value.

Placing love on anything over God makes it an idol. We are commanded throughout Scripture to love God over everything else (Matthew 22:37). When work—even vocational ministry work—becomes an obsession, it has taken God's rightful place in our lives.

Paul's reminder to the Colossians is also a great reminder for us: "And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him" (Colossians 3:17). Doing our work in the name of the Lord and giving thanks for the opportunity to work is a great way to center our work on Christ. When we view our employment as an opportunity to advance the Kingdom of Heaven, we refocus our perception of our work to glorify God. When we are more focused on Christ than we are on our work or careers we set ourselves up to maintain a healthy work and life balance. If our jobs take up so much of our energy that Jesus loses predominance over our lives, we are in trouble of creating an idol out of our work.

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