An Admonition to Workaholics

Allow me to speak personally for a moment about a sin that long festered in my life: forsaking the means of grace in my home, sacrificing them on the altar of vocational work.

In my profession, it is customary to work long hours to meet deadlines (often multiple overlapping deadlines). And since the work is not back-breaking labor, it is easy to slowly get entangled in it until I find that I have spent an entire year working such long hours that I have forsaken the first things God has called me to, namely prayer, meditation, scripture memorization and study, instructing my wife and children, knowing their infirmities, and bearing with them in daily struggles.

God has plainly shown us in his Word the means that a man ought to attend to if he is going to see godly spiritual fruit on the vines of his family. Consider what Paul says to pastor Timothy in 1 Timothy 4:13-16:

Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation, to teaching. Do not neglect the gift you have, which was given you by prophecy when the council of elders laid their hands on you. Practice these things, immerse yourself in them, so that all may see your progress. Keep a close watch on yourself and on the teaching. Persist in this, for by so doing you will save both yourself and your hearers.

Now it would be a mistake to apply all of these things to fathers, since most fathers aren't preachers. But consider what are the means by which God saves "both yourself and your hearers": it is through reading, exhortation, teaching, and being immersed in scripture.

Can we say that a father may neglect these means of God's grace and expect that his family will not suffer terribly? Do we not shake our heads when pastors neglect these things only to let their flock get attacked by wolves? So too must fathers give themselves diligently to these things if they wish to see God bearing fruit in themselves and their families.

Do not think that you can simply take your family to church for a couple hours a week and then forsake the means of sanctification in the home. Just as pastors who forsake the public means of grace destroy their flock, so do fathers destroy their children who neglect spiritual disciplines in the home. It might actually be worse because it teaches them hypocrisy—that the Christian faith consists of maintaining moral duties in public while neglecting personal holiness. It would be better for you to be a pagan than for Christ's gospel to be so profaned.

After years of neglect in this essential calling, the guilt can feel overwhelming. But David's beautiful words in Psalm 51 guide me in finding comfort:

Have mercy on me, O God,
according to your steadfast love;
according to your abundant mercy
blot out my transgressions.
Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity,
and cleanse me from my sin!

And we may know full well that he will cleanse us and help us to fulfill our spiritual calling, for he has told us, "I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Son may bring glory to the Father." Will he not give penitent sinners the fruit they long to see in their lives? Of course he will. These things are according to his will, so he will surely give them to us as we call out to him.

"But", you say, "I don't have the faith to ask him and I have sinned against him too long for him to have mercy on me." Fellow sinner, remember that Christ did not come to save the righteous but sinners like us. Jesus said, "It is not the healthy that need a physician by those who are sick." He will give you what you desire. "The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise." (Psalm 51:17)

So, fellow workaholic, I urge you, if you desire the blessings of God that he promises through the means of grace, do not delay to arrange your life and disentangle yourself from the things of this world that so easily make you too busy and tired to attend to them. I am not suggesting that you refrain from working hard—far from it!—but I am suggesting that you consider whether your commitments have become an idol and if you have chosen to give priority to your professional calling over your spiritual calling. If this is so, I urge you to repent.

Find rest in the Savior and once again possess a clear conscience before the Lord. The harvest of joy, peace and righteousness that the Lord is eager to give you will far outweigh the fleeting pleasures of this life. Rejoice in him—allow him to come in to you and "sup with you" as he desires to do, that, as Paul prayed, "Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth and know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God."

Mark Priestap is the Senior Web Designer at Desiring God.