Have you ever thought about how much time you spend at work? Take the average US Life Expectancy, which is 79 years. Then subtract the years spent at school leading up to earning a degree (21), minus retirement years from 66 (13)—if you can retire that young. We get a total number of 45 years of working. Assuming a 40-hour work week (which you probably work more of) and 4 weeks of vacation each year (which you probably take less of), we get 1,920 hours worked per year. This number of hours worked each year multiplied by 45 years of working equals 86,400 total hours worked in a lifetime. This is a conservative estimate. Then add the fact that, these days, thanks to technological advances, we can work from almost anywhere. We can work at home, in Starbucks, and at the kids’ ball games.
For all of that time we spend working, how much do we really examine our work life?
For twelve years, my wife and I lived in a rural community in Indiana that frequently delayed the start of school due to fog. I thought it was strange that the local district delayed school so much due to fog until I was informed about a terrible tragedy the community experienced. Years before we moved to town, there was a school bus accident directly related to foggy road conditions. Students died. This explained the response to fog. Now, whenever there is fog in the morning, people in the community find it difficult to move around—not just because of the vision impairment that fog presents, but because of the emotional reminder of that terrible accident so many years before.
A dense fog can be perilous in our lives. On the one hand, we can be easily “fogged in”—paralyzed and indecisive—when it comes to important decisions. On the other hand, we can unintentionally lead disoriented lives, moving forward at a breakneck speed through the fog and into the pea soup. We keep moving without gaining the directional wisdom needed to navigate. We keep moving without examining our lives and what we do.
I think that our WORK life is the part of our lives that gets the least amount of scrutiny. Our work lives don’t seem to come out of the haze of our lives. It is not often examined. Are you feeling fogged in at school? Are you just living for the next weekend? Do you need clearer direction about your job?
Here are some questions that can help clear the fog in your work life: What is work? Why do we do it? Are some labor efforts more worthwhile than others? How do we work in a way that brings meaning to ourselves and to others? Does our work matter to God? Does God care about our jobs or careers? Is it God’s intention that our work simply teach us perseverance, humility and honesty? Or does He mean for it to be something more? Because we work at faith-based schools, we have some easy application for these questions.
Do you spend time thinking about these things at your school? Are you talking about them with your students, even the youngest of them? Focusing on theology of work is nothing new. The Hebrews did it. The Reformers did it. The Puritans in Early America did it. But, for some reason, talking about a theology of work at school got lost over the years.
Think about it. Do you remember having any conversations with your school’s faculty and staff about what God thinks about our work, and whether it matters to Him? Did you ever talk with a pastor or hear a sermon growing up about doing the work of the Lord at whatever job God calls you to? Most people I talk to answer these questions in the negative.
At your school, build a biblically-informed view of work, economics and human flourishing in the minds of your students. This is a short-term goal. The transformation and blessing of the nations is the long-term goal. In order to embed a biblical theology of work into the hearts and minds of our students, we have to be intentional and systematic in our approach. We can do this by attempting to embed theology of work principles into the regular academic curriculum. We can do this “along the way.” We can do this by not limiting these kinds of discussions to Bible class; we can talk about them in every class.
Perhaps, as you focus on what your school is doing in this area, it will be an opportunity for you to get your own work life “out of the fog,” to examine it, and to ensure your work life is in line with what God is doing in your life.