I read recently that the normal expectation for salaried employees is right around 55 hours. This is up from the 40 hour work week that was deemed normative in 1940 by the Fair Labor Standards Act. However, it is down from what the government found in 1890. What they found then was that labor workers often worked 100 hours a week.
The 40 hour work week has some wisdom to it. 40 hours divided by 5 normal working days leaves 8 hours a day as a normal work day. This leaves 16 hours to divide between family/friends/recreation and sleep. 8+8+8=24.
And so as our work hours creep up to 55, it doesn’t come for free. It comes at the cost of our sleep and our time with family and friends. Most of us are already sleep deprived, and there is little room to give anymore sleep time to work, so we begin to sacrifice time with family and friends.
So is it really all that surprising that I just recently read articles about how Men Have Significantly Less Friends today than 50 years ago, or that companies are beginning to plan for Social Media Shrinkage (the idea that social media is taking away from the effectiveness of employees while they are at work)? Is it surprising that we have seen increasing brokenness in family systems?
Certainly, the quick fix of going back to 40 hour work weeks isn’t going to solve everything.
If we’re looking for a solution, we need to look for Jesus.
What does Jesus teach us about work? Mostly that it is never done. Really.
Our work is just another way that we try to justify ourselves. We attempt to justify our paycheck, our house, our desires, our debauched internet browser history, and so many other things with more work. This is legalism. Not the religious kind (or is it?), but legalism nonetheless.
Jesus tells us that legalism is a broken system. We can’t ultimately fix our lives with just more work. If we could, we wouldn’t need Him.
The reason that we can’t fix our lives with more work is that the work has been done already.
When Jesus died on the cross, the work of our justification was done. We don’t need to prove ourselves any more (which is justification). We don’t need to justify our paycheck or house or wife or even our sins. He did it all already.
And when we realize that, work starts to look differently. Work becomes something that we do, not because it justifies us, but for other reasons. Perhaps then we can begin to see God in our work, if we finally stop trying to make ourselves gods by our work legalism.
No matter how many hours you work this week. Consider that whatever is the root of the reason for your work – that Jesus has already given that to you. Meditate on that and see what difference it makes.