Take This Job and Love It!

#3—Priorities: Balancing work, family, self and God



Dwight is a guy whose priorities are out of whack—a little long on work and short on family!

How many of you struggle to juggle? I’m thinking of juggling work and family and self and God. My boss wants me to work more; my spouse and kids want me home more; my church wants me to serve more; and I’d like a little time for myself!

That’s what we’re talking about today in part 3 of “Take this job and love it: Priorities—balancing work, family, self and God.”


Offering and announcements:

Life Groups (#8) —leader training on Sunday, October 3.

Wild at Heart (bottom left)—men only, for more information, attend a 20 minute orientation today after the service in Room 200.

Baptism classes (upcoming events)—next Sunday during all services; baptisms on October 3.  For details, pick up a baptism packet at the Info Center today.

Missions Connexion (#3)—free all-city conference on Friday and Saturday at Calvary Chapel; details are at the Info Center.


Prayer: The last two weeks we have acknowledged and prayed for everyone working in education or medical/health. The next two weeks, we are going to acknowledge and pray for everyone working in business/labor, and public service.

This week, we have a very special group we want to acknowledge. Lots of very important work is unpaid. Stay at home moms; grandmas and grandpas who watch the grandkids so parents can work; volunteers who serve in our church and community; students who work at their studies.


Introduction: (after sketch)

The struggle to juggle. Does that scene look familiar? Work is important, but it can consume you, and leave you with little to give to anyone or anything else. How do we juggle life’s competing demands? How do we live with balance so that our work is done with excellence, our family is well-loved, God is well-served, and we are healthy?

It’s not easy. It’s a constant juggling—balance is a moving target. It’s not static; I can’t give you a formula that will bring lasting balance. Here’s my basic premise: I’m to love God with all I’ve got. Everything else flows from that. If Jesus is Lord, then I am constantly correcting back to Him. “Jesus, how do you want me to live today? In this moment?” With that in mind, let’s take a look at these four things that we juggle: work, family, self, and God.


1. Work is worship, but don’t worship your work.

Work is worship; we are to do it for God with all our heart. But we aren’t to worship our work! Work is good, but work can be overdone. Millions of us are caught on a treadmill of overwork and are paying an enormous price for it.

ILL: The general manager of a radio station in St. Louis gets to the office at 2:30 every morning, and comes home at 5 in the afternoon, 6 days a week. He’s been doing that for 20 years! He used to come in at 1:30, but a heart attack put him in the hospital and he thought he ought to slow down, so he comes in an hour later now, at 2:30 AM. When asked if he thought that wasn’t overdoing it, he replied, “No! I guess most people just aren’t as dedicated to their jobs as I am!”

Is that dedication or craziness or idolatry? We face enormous pressures to succeed at work.

It’s possible that your boss pressures you to work more. Many corporations tell their potential employees up front about long hours, late nights, lots of travel, and frequent relocations. It is understood that if you want to make it, if you hope to climb the corporate ladder and win all the prizes, that you had better be ready to sacrifice everything else.

Our society puts tons of pressure on us. We tend to define people and evaluate their worth based on what they do, their success at work, and the prizes they have accumulated. From childhood we have been programmed to “make something out of ourselves”, to perform and achieve in order to prove our worth. We live in a performance-oriented culture. Also, because we prize the Protestant work ethic, overwork is almost seen as a religious virtue. The workaholic has become the standard of success. Add to that the incredible barrage of advertising aimed at convincing us that our lives are incomplete or unfulfilled until we have the latest gadget (like my incredibly cool iPad), and you see that we live with incredible cultural pressure to succeed at work, whatever the cost.

Then there are family pressures. You and your spouse both would like a new car, and a larger house, and some new furniture would be nice. And the kids! Designer fashions, specialty shoes that cost upwards of $200 a pair, haircuts that require a second job, drivers ed that is going to cost you an extra $1000 this year, not to mention the lost years of your life! And of course, you want to give your children all those things that your parents couldn’t give you. On top of that, you’d like junior to be proud of what you do. Many workaholics tell their complaining families, “But I’m doing this for you.” It all adds up to more pressure to make that job #1.

Finally, there is you. Most workaholics are driven by their own need for significance and self-worth. Nobody likes to fail; but some of us are driven to success by deeply-held doubts about our self-worth, and the workplace offers us a chance to prove to ourselves and everyone else that we matter.

You and I face enormous pressures to be successful at work, pressures that might cause us to lose our perspective and begin to think that being successful at work is the most important thing in the world, worth any sacrifice we need to make to achieve it. But watch out! It’s a trap!

Worshipping your work—making your career the most important thing in your life—is idolatry. Exodus 20:3 is the first of the Ten Commandments and it says, “You shall have no other gods before me.” Everybody worships something. Everybody has a highest value. Everybody has something that is his highest priority, allegiance and loyalty. Whatever that is, that is your god. And God says, “Don’t worship anything but me. Don’t let anything else usurp My rightful place in your life.” Making work most important is idolatry!

The overcommitted are deluded into thinking that this condition is temporary. We saw that in our sketch. My favorite line was when he said, “This is temporary.” And his wife answered, “So is this,” referring to the kids being at home. We always think it is temporary, but have you noticed that it never slows down? We have fooled ourselves into thinking that circumstances have forced us to work too hard, too much, when in fact we are driven from within.

And this idolatrous, deceptive lifestyle is incredibly costly.

It can cost you your family. Over-commitment is the number one marriage killer. Men and women are too exhausted to communicate, to date, to play, to pray or make love, and so the relationship withers. Millions of men are devoted to success at work and have left the nurture and care of their wife and children to others. The divorce rate in such families is astronomical. Not only do marriages die, but children grow up with a host of emotional problems, including that they tend to become workaholics themselves, killing themselves to get the attention of an absentee parent, proving to themselves and everyone else that they matter.

It can cost you your health.

It can cost you your relationship with God. Jesus said, “No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or vice-versa.” You can’t have two gods; when work becomes your god, your relationship with God will begin to wither just like your marriage will. Jesus said, “What good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul? Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul?” Matthew 16:26 You can gain the world, and lose your soul. It’s not worth it!

It can cost you your life.

ILL: I heard about a man in the Midwest who recognized his workaholic patterns and decided to save himself and his family. So he sold his business, bought a struggling marina on a lake outside a small town, and moved his family to begin their new life together. But a change of geography didn’t work; this man hadn’t really changed his priorities inside. And within six years, he had built that marina into the largest and best in the state, a multi-million dollar business. His wife and children, discouraged beyond hope at last, had left him. His health failed. One day, he was riding across the lake in a friend’s boat, and as they rounded a corner and this sprawling marina came into view, his friend said, “You must really be proud every time you see this.” And the man replied, “No. To tell you the truth, it makes me sick to my stomach. It has cost me everything that mattered to me.” And within two months, he had a massive heart attack and died. He won in business but he lost in life. He had gained the world, but lost his soul.

Which reminds me of something else Jesus said:

Luke 12:13 21 Someone in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.”

Jesus replied, “Man, who appointed me a judge or an arbiter between you?” Then he said to them, “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.”

And he told them this parable: “The ground of a certain rich man produced a good crop. He thought to himself, ‘What shall I do? I have no place to store my crops.’

“Then he said, ‘This is what I’ll do. I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. And I’ll say to myself, “You have plenty of good things laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry.” ‘

“But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?’

“This is how it will be with anyone who stores up things for himself but is not rich toward God.”

Here is a man who worked and worked; he climbed the ladder of success but found it was leaning against the wrong wall. He died with nothing that mattered, and went to God empty-handed. Please! Don’t do this. Don’t die with regret

  • that you missed your children growing up,

  • that you and your spouse never enjoyed your marriage,

  • that you didn’t have time to cultivate life-long friendships,

  • that you didn’t get to know and love the God who created you.

Workaholics die empty-handed. Don’t do it!

Work is worship, but don’t worship your work.


2. Love your family, but not more than God.

Work or family: which is more important? I think most of us would say family. We’ve all heard stories of people who were so devoted to work that they neglected their family.

ILL: James Dobson tells the story of working long hours in his ministry until he got a letter from his father that stopped him in his tracks and made him reevaluate. It said, “I have observed that the greatest delusion is to suppose that our children will be devout Christians simply because their parents have been, or that any of them will enter the Christian faith in any other way than through their parents’ deep travail of prayer and faith. But this prayer demands time, time that cannot be given if it is all signed and conscripted and laid on the altar of career or ministry ambition. Failure for you at this point would make mere success in your ministry a very pale and washed out affair, indeed.”

He’s right. I’ve always said that the first and most important people for me to pastor are my own family. If I win the world, but lose my kids, I’ve failed. I love my family.

In correcting the imbalance of putting work first, many of us have swung the pendulum too far and now it’s “Family first!” We face many pressures to make family first.

If your personal history includes growing up in a dysfunctional family, if you were neglected or abused, or if you had a dissatisfying relationship with your parents, you probably put a great deal of pressure on yourself to make up for what you lost by having the perfect family now. You need to be super-mate, and super-parent, and raise super-kids, and together be super-family. You are determined to give your children everything you didn’t have, not only materially, but experientially in terms of love and joy and memories. So, out of your wounded past, you may put a great deal of pressure on yourself to make family first.

There is also the pressure from the church. In the past 50 years there has been a great deal of awareness and teaching about the family in the church. And that is wonderful and welcome and necessary and important. I often do one major series a year on family life because it is so important and the Bible has so much to say about it. But anytime we emphasize something, it is easy to overemphasize, to swing to an extreme. Some of you get Christian publications on family life. And you hear sermons about it, and read books about it, and we have seminars on it, and small groups that focus on it. But after awhile we have gotten so much input that we start to tilt: we start thinking the family must be first.

Nobody thinks the family is more important than I do. I love my wife and kids, and my grandkids are spectacular! When my kids were at home, I was committed to being home with the family at least 4 nights a week. I treasure our family life. But I try not to live family first. My family is not my god.

Exodus 20:3 “You shall have no other gods before me.” This includes my family!

Jesus said in Matthew 10:36 “Anyone who loves his father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves his son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.” Jesus expects that He will be our highest allegiance, higher than mother or father, or son or daughter.

He says it even more dramatically in Luke 14:26 “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters–yes, even his own life–he cannot be my disciple.” Jesus isn’t asking us to hate our families in some bitter or angry way; He was using a common expression that simply means He expects you to love Him more than your most important relationships, your own family. He picked the people whom you love the most, and should, and said that you must love Him more.

I love my family more than my work; I would rather lose my job than lose my family! But there is a danger in the family-first lifestyle, a danger to the family!

Every living person or group of people needs something beyond themselves to live for. When I become my own highest value, I get extremely selfish and small. When a church exists only for itself, it won’t exist for long; the death knell has sounded. And when a family lives for itself, when it becomes its own highest value, it ceases to grow healthily upward and starts to grown inward.

ILL: When Laina and I got married, we wrote our own vows and memorized them. I forgot mine…it was one of the few times in my life I’ve been speechless, and everyone thought it was hilarious…except me! While they were laughing, I recovered my lost mind, and told Laina that I loved her, but I would always love her second, that I had a first and higher allegiance to the Lord Jesus. But it is my allegiance to Jesus that secures her place in my life; I would never think of leaving or hurting her not only because of my love for her, but also because of my love for Him. In her vows, Laina made the same kind of promises: Jesus first, Joe second. We have lived that way for 35 years now, and we were just talking the other day about what a wonderful relationship we have. We are best friends and love to be together. And if you were to stay in our home, you would be impressed with the atmosphere of love and peace (that is more Laina’s doing than mine). Both of us know where this strong family bond has come from: the Lord. Because He is first for both of us, we have something bigger than ourselves that our life together is built upon. I love Laina better because I love Jesus first.

I am grieved when I see Christian families consistently missing church for family activities. I am not saying you should never miss…I miss. But it’s the exception not the rule. I always wanted to communicate to my children the values that I just explained to you: Jesus first. And when our children see us consistently having a lackadaisical attitude about spiritual things, when recreation or sports or school activities consistently supplant church involvement, we are sending a message to our kids, an upside down value system that looks good for the family on the surface, but has unsatisfactory results in long run. We’re saying, “God is not that important.”

Love your family, but not more than you love God.


3. Take care of your self, but don’t be selfish.

You work hard, you take care of your family, you love and serve God—when is there any time for you? This is a legitimate question.

ILL: Thursday I got home from work about 7 PM and Laina was ready to go to the gym and work out. Usually I love to work out; I enjoy the workout and visiting with friends at the gym. But by Thursday night at 7, I was peopled-out. I had just finished four days of almost non-stop meetings with people, after preaching three times on Sunday; I had used all my words. I needed to be alone, to be quiet, to refill my tanks. So we went for a walk in the dark, and then came home and read.

How many of you can identify with this? Sometimes your tanks get empty, and you need to refill. You need to take care of yourself in several ways.

  • You need to take care of yourself physically. Get enough rest, eat a healthy diet, get some exercise.

  • You need to take care of yourself emotionally. Have some fun, laugh a lot, do things that recharge you. This is why I have a motorcycle; it’s not transportation; it’s therapy!

  • You need to take care of yourself spiritually. Come to church, get in a Life Group, practice spiritual disciplines like daily time with God (PBJ).

No one else is going to do this for you! If you are tired, frazzled, stressed—it’s your fault. You are the only person who can take care of yourself.

But as important as self-care is, don’t let it become all-consuming. We live in a culture of narcissism; the emphasis on self-esteem, and self-actualization, and self-love has led many people to elevate self to the highest place. From Walt Whitman’s “I celebrate myself; I sing myself,” to Joseph Campbell’s “Follow your bliss,” we live in an age that has deified the self. Self-care can become self-worship, or just plain selfishness.

In the Great Commandment, Jesus said that we are to love God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength, and then love our neighbor as we love ourselves. There is a legitimate self-love. We care for ourselves; that’s good and right. And we are to love God with all we’ve got and care for others as much as we care for ourselves so that this self-love doesn’t run amok and become idolatry.

Exodus 20:3 “You shall have no other gods before me.” Not your work, not your family, and not your self.

Matthew 16:24–25 Then Jesus said to his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. 25 For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it.

In the midst of a self-absorbed world, Jesus makes this radical call: we must deny ourselves, take up our cross and follow Jesus. As a Christian, self-care is important, but not my highest priority. When Jesus calls me to take up my cross and die, it means denying myself. I say no to myself so I can say yes to Jesus.

Take care of yourself without becoming selfish.


4. Love God with all you’ve got!

The Bible makes it clear that God is first. One more time, here is the first of the Ten Commandments.

Exodus 20:3 “You shall have no other gods before me.”

When God gives His top ten commands, He leads with this one: no other gods. Nothing is to take God’s place as the most important person or thing in our lives. And in the New Testament, when Jesus is asked what is the greatest commandment,

Matthew 22:37–40 Jesus replied: “ ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

Love God with all you’ve got; this is first! Look again at the four points we’ve covered and see if you notice anything:

  • Work is worship, but don’t worship your work.

  • Love your family, but not more than God.

  • Take care of yourself, but don’t be selfish.

  • Love God with all you’ve got.

The first three all have a restrictive qualifier—a “but”—the last one doesn’t. Your work, your family, your self—all of them are good, but none of them are God. They are all good, but none of them deserve to be your highest priority. They are all good, but they each have a “but”, a limiter so that we don’t go to extremes, so we don’t idolize our work or our family or our selves.

But with God, there is no limiter; there is no “but”. We don’t say, “love God, but not too much.” You can’t love God too much. You are to love Him with all you have—all your heart and soul and mind and strength—precisely because He is God and deserves everything you can give Him. He is your Creator and Redeemer. You are His because He made you and bought you. You belong to Him.

1 Corinthians 6:19–20 Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; 20 you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body.

Your life is not your own. You were bought at a price—the precious blood of Christ. You belong to Him.

When we say yes to Jesus, our lives undergo a radical reorientation. Our lives are no longer oriented around work or family or self—they are oriented around God. When we say that Jesus is Lord, He is Lord of everything. Your life is not your own; your are submitting everything to Jesus.

If you have never made the decision to follow Jesus, to say yes to Him, I’m going to give you a chance to do that in a few moments. But I want to make something clear. Making the decision to follow Jesus is just the start of the Christian life. You become His disciple—the word “disciple” means “learner” or “follower”. Think of it this way: If you register for college tomorrow, you have started your education. You don’t go around telling everyone you have a degree—you’ve just registered, not graduated! You’ve got years of learning ahead of you. If you say yes to Jesus today, you just registered! You’ve got years—a whole lifetime—of learning ahead of you: learning to follow Jesus, learning to love Him with all you’ve got, learning to live under His leadership. I’ll give a chance to make that decision in a few moments.

So how do I love God with all I’ve got, and still succeed at home and at work and personally?


5. Living a balanced life.

All of life is integrated under the lordship of Jesus. Remember when I said that I love Laina better when I love Jesus first? I live life better when I live Jesus-first. When I let Jesus lead, He leads me into balance; He gives me His healthy perspective on work and family and self. In the past, I’ve tried to order things: this first, this second, this third. Now I think more simply: Jesus first—period. He orders my life in a balanced and healthy way.

  • When work becomes too important or is sucking up all my time and energy, Jesus will point that out and call me to adjust. He may speak to me through the Bible or in prayer; He may speak to me through friends. Often, He has spoken to me about this through my wife! Other times, Jesus makes it clear that I need to give extra time and attention to my work.

  • The same with family: there are times when Jesus will lead me to give extra time and attention to the family. Jesus led me to mark off at least 4 nights a week at home when my kids were young. Or Jesus may remind me to back off and give them space.

  • Like everyone else, I battle selfishness. My best hope to win that battle is to follow Jesus. He prods me when I need to take care of myself, and He prods me when I need to die to myself.

Jesus is Lord. Following Jesus is the way to life.