Please don’t fear…I am not writing from a snowed in mountain resort lodge. I have to admit that, until recently, I assumed the “all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy” proverb came from that Jack Nicholson thriller The Shining.
(Disclaimer: if you are reading this and under the age of 30 you shouldn’t go watch the movie to which I refer. And maybe if you are over 30, you shouldn’t watch either.)
Turns out the phrase “all work and no play” was originally published in Proverbs in English, Italian, French and Spanish (1659) and is attributed to a writer by the name of James Howell. I think this one turned out to be his most popular proverb. Can you name another one?
Of course the warning of this proverb seems clear enough…that if you don’t release yourself from the pressures of work from time to time you will become dull, boring, uninteresting, and unexciting. You will also probably find yourself completely bored with your life over time, as work becomes your sole focus day in and day out. No time for hobbies, family, friends, exercise, watching sports, reading, or just plain vegging. That doesn’t sound like much fun to me.
All Work and No Play: Rest vs. Work Balance
I think maybe God knew a thing or two about this and tried to warn us. In the Bible Exodus 23:12 says:
“Six days you shall do your work, and on the seventh day you shall rest…”
This wasn’t the first time God had instructed the Hebrews in this regard. A few chapters prior in Exodus 20, as part of the greatest Ten Commandments given, God gives them this instruction in verses 8-10: “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord your God. In it you shall do no work…”
So God prescribed and allowed for work. But He also commanded rest, just as He had rested on the seventh day of creation (See Genesis 2:1-3). And the purpose of the rest day for the Hebrews was to worship God. They were to remember the Sabbath day of the week and keep it holy. God had set it aside as special. It was His day. And lest you think this really wasn’t a big deal, we read later on in the Bible that there were some pretty strict penalties for doing work on the Sabbath. Check out what happened in Numbers 15:32-36.
The Cure for Workaholism
But I can’t help but wonder that God also knew about the dangers of working too much. Were there reasons, in addition to worship, that He built into our week a non-work day? I believe He knew a day off would help us to:
1. Rest. Our bodies need sleep. Most people don’t get enough during the workweek. An extra hour or two may be just what your body needs on your day off.
2. Relax. Let’s face it – work creates pressure. And pressure creates tension and stress. If not handled properly, stress can begin to have negative affects on your body. A day off can help your body unwind and let go of the tension.
3. Reflect. We need time to stop and think. It is really hard to do that in the fast paced work environment.
4. Revel. How boring would life be without the opportunity to go play? Our day off gives us the chance to do something fun that we enjoy.
5. Rejuvenate. We need time to renew our passion for work. Often times, as I relax and reflect on the weekends, I find the answer to problems that occurred during the past workweek. This gets me eager to return to work, implement the solution and move on.
Why are these five things valuable for us? It’s because we have another six-day workweek ahead. And so on…and so on…and so on…for the majority of our adult life. Taking a mini break from work each week will help us be more efficient and actually enjoy our work more.
Take a break…worship God. Rest, relax, reflect, revel and rejuvenate. After all, you don’t want to snap like Jack.
Questions: Do you ever feel like life is “all work and no play?” What do you like to do on your day off? How has being a workaholic affected your life?