I have been married for thirty four years and I have been a full time minister for thirty two of those years. As a result many ask me the secret of, what has come to be known as, the ‘work-life balance’. What people are looking for is a simple ‘tried and tested’ formula that they can apply when conflicts arise; something like: Personal health first, family second, and work last. The problem with this is that it becomes a rigid yardstick, an inflexible prescription and in my view, a recipe for frustration.
In reality the Christian life is not a series of rules and regulations. Our example, Jesus Christ, didn’t follow any such formula in His ‘work-life balance’. In fact, His life seems to be a “collection of contradictions” as one poet puts it. For instance, on the one hand, when His family thought He was mad and came to take Him home (Mark 3:21), Jesus asked, “Who are my mother and my brothers?” (Mark 3:33). Yet, on the other hand, when dying on the cross for the sins of the world, He was thinking of His mother’s welfare (John 19:26-27). On another occasion, Jesus taught that disciples are not worthy of Him if they love their family more than Him (Matt 10:37). Yet when the Pharisees neglected their family for the sake of their service to God, He rebuked them for dishonouring their parents, nullifying the word of God and following human rules (Matt 15:3-9). And, of course, that is the point. Jesus didn’t follow human rules. He fulfilled the will of His Father which is neither legalistic nor formulaic. Formulas are for infants.
If we want a Biblical ‘work-life balance’ technique, I believe we are going to be disappointed. Instead, we should follow Christ, embrace paradox, make daily life choices and love God with all our heart. The theologian, Augustine of Hippo wrote, “We should love God and do what we want”, which assumes of course that if we love God we won’t do what we want. After thirty plus years of attempting to get it right, that’s about as prescriptive as I am prepared to go.