The Case against Work-Life Balance

By Luke Bobo, reprinted from Made to Flourish.

A dear sister in Christ and friend recently told me she is “constantly working on the work-home-life balance.” I wanted to scream, No! because this kind of language can inadvertently perpetuate a false dichotomy, especially when it comes from pastors. This phrase, “striving for a work-life balance” is one of those phrases we need to jettison from our vocabulary. Why is this statement one that we should bury forever? 

I offer three reasons.

Christ’s Lordship

First, Os Guiness states this in his book, The Call,  “Our primary calling, as followers of Christ is by Him, to Him, and for Him.” To be called to Christ means he is Lord over every aspect of our lives. Francis Schaeffer wrote that “All that we do and have is under the Lordship of Christ.” Our primary calling means we fall under the lordship of Christ. And practically, all of these secondary callings – our daily work, our parenting, our housework, and our civic work all come under Christ’s rule. All of these varieties of work are of great and equal value to the kingdom and to God.

More or Less Seasons

Second, each of these forms of work will demand more or less of us at given periods of our life. In some seasons of life, we need to devote an inordinate amount of time to parenting a child, for example. At other times, we will need to devote an inordinate amount of time to our daily work. And with an aging Boomer generation, we might need to devote an inordinate amount of time to caring for an elderly parent. The pursuit of work-life balance is a false one, as this search for balance will give way to the reality of imbalance because we live in a post-Genesis 3 world. 

Recipe for Frustration

Third, we must jettison this phrase because such a statement will lead to frustration because it is not achievable. In our hyper-individualized culture, where many live by the mantra, “pull yourself up by your own boot straps,” control is believed to be within our grasp. In other words, to utter or to live by such a phrase – “I am striving for work-life balance” – suggests we are in control of such a balancing act. However, frustration will invariably set in during those providential events that are not in our control, like experiencing a layoff or being involved in a car accident. 

Three Ways to Encourage

Instead of encouraging people to strive for a work-life balance, encourage them to do the following: relentlessly pursue intimacy with Christ as he will help us through the Holy Spirit during each season of life, and he will generously give us his wisdom (James 1; Matthew 6). And realize that because of our fallen world, one or two (or three) of our vocations will demand more of us at times and sometimes those same vocations will demand less of us. In the moments of less, encourage your friends or family members or coworkers to rest and recharge. And in the slower seasons, encourage others to help those who are in those fuller seasons. Finally, encourage others to regain more margin in their lives. In other words, if given the option to work overtime, we must teach our people to say, “That’s a great opportunity, but I must decline at this moment.”

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