Work, rest, play
I need to preface this blog by stating that I am not an economist. I very rarely understand the articles in the Financial Review and I if you ask our church treasurer I sometimes struggle to make my work budget balance. Economics and commerce are not personal strong suits.
With these caveats out of the way, the passing of the recent Labour Day long week and the current debates about changes to weekend penalty rates has started an itch that I just can’t quite scratch. There is something about the removal of weekend penalty rates that irks and worries me. Why is this the case? I think it is because it has led me to ponder how we as Christians should think about work and rest. I think it comes from a deep-seated conviction that humans are more than just workers and consumers. I think something seems not right in this penalty rate debate as it seems to suggest to me that in some circles humans are perceived as just workers and consumers whose main role in society is to work and consume for the sake of the economy.
The Bible has a lot to say about work. Right from the very beginning Adam worked. God placed him in the Garden of Eden to work it and keep it (Gen 2:15). This work formed part of his natural existence. The theme of work continues in the Biblical narrative as people in the Old Testament are given jobs such as judges, soldiers and shepherds. The Bible also urges us not to place too much emphasis on work however as it is vanity (Ecc 2). In New Testament Paul encourages believers to work and earn their own livings (1 Thes 4:11; 2 Thess 3:12). Although this is a very brief survey, work in the Bible can be a good thing and is encouraged. The Bible is not anti-work.
While the Bible has a lot to say about work it also has a lot to say about rest. God creates the world and then He rests (Gen 2:1). In Deuteronomy 5:14 Israel is commanded to rest. They are commanded to obey the Sabbath and not do any work. The Promised Land was to be a land of rest for Israel (Deut 12: 8-10; Isa 51:3). Our ultimate rest will be in heaven (Heb 3 – 4). The Bible itself seems to present a paradigm of work and rest. Work is important but so is rest. As Christians then, we can’t always be working and we can’t always be resting. Neither of these two extreme ways of living appears to be faithful.
If we are always working and have no rest we are forgoing time with family, friends and our community. We are telling our friends and family that work and by extension money, are more important than them. When we forgo rest for work our families, friends and ultimately our communities suffer.
As the world changes around us the issue of faithfully working and faithfully resting is an area where we as Christians can model to and love those around us by showing that there is more to life than work and money. We can love those around us by modelling to them how to rest well, how to invest in others, how to invest in our families. This means that we take our holidays. This means that we try not to work too many weekends. This means we make our friends, families, relationships and church a priority. We are modelling that this life is more than just working and making money.
What does this mean for the weekend penalty rates discussion? Keeping in mind that I am not an economist and don’t know all the finer details. I think it means that when people need to work on weekends, when they are forgoing rest time they should be duly compensated. I think it means that we should protect our weekends so that we don’t all end up working a seven day working week. The effects on our family and communities would be catastrophic. I think it means that we need to protect those in our societies who are vulnerable to exploitation in this area and will end up working a seven day week for less money and be ultimately destroyed by a lack of rest. And I think all this because God has created us to work and to rest. He has made a more than just workers and consumers. He has made us for a greater purpose.
What do you think?
I am not the first person to be irked or curious about the changing nature of work, rest and play patterns in Australian society. In 2012 Philip Jensen wrote a very helpful article about this issues. Coincidentally he was also writing in around the Labour Day long weekend. You can read it here http://www.phillipjensen.com/articles/the-land-of-the-lost-weekend/