Day 28: Workaholism, Service, and the One Thing that Matters

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But the Lord said to her, “My dear Martha, you are worried and upset over all these details! There is only one thing worth being concerned about. Mary has discovered it, and it will not be taken away from her.”

Luke 10:40-42 NLT

Have you ever heard of the term “workaholic?” The term workaholism was coined in 1971 by minister and psychologist Wayne Oates, who described workaholism as “the compulsion or the uncontrollable need to work incessantly.” There is nothing wrong with hard work—it’s part of life, and it can have great value. But when our hard work leads us to the distraction of busyness or to the sin of complaining or becoming bitter, we have a problem. 

Most of us are probably familiar with the biblical story of Martha and Mary, but let’s recap a bit. Martha and Mary often had guests over to their home, and one of them was a very notable guest, Jesus Christ. They had invited him and all his disciples and some other followers over for dinner, which made for a full house. People were hungry and chores needed to be done, so Martha set out to do them. Mary, on the other hand, sat down to listen and learn from Jesus. She wasn’t busy—in fact, she wasn’t even moving—and that ticked Martha off. As she hustled around the house caring for everyone she saw, she noticed her sister not helping her. And the first thing she thought was, This is not fair! She boiled over with resentment, and she said something about it to Jesus. Of course we all know his reply—it’s forever engraved in history for all to see.

MARTHA WAS REBUKED FOR BEING “WORRIED AND UPSET OVER ALL THE DETAILS.” SOUND FAMILIAR? That’s the wants or worries of life that leads us to distraction—the stuff that gets in the way of love. See,
it isn’t what we have to do but how we react to it, think about it, and feel about it that counts. If Martha had been serving thankfully, turning an ear to hear what Jesus was saying as she prepared his meal, would she have been rebuked? Or would Jesus have been pleased with her service?

Many times we serve with resentment and bitterness toward those who seem to pull less weight than we do. Things like cooking, cleaning, fixing, and helping are good things, but they can get in the way of love and an attitude of thankfulness when we start keeping score, when we keep track of how much we work compared to how much others work. We can’t kid ourselves—our discontentment is no secret to those around us. And that discontentment taints our love relationships and builds all kinds of opportunities for fighting and disagreement.

Things get between us and God when we measure what others do on a scale against our own service. When we become bitter, we’re sinning, plain and simple. Serving with resentment is wasted service. The Bible makes it clear that it’s not just our service that matters but our attitude as well (Colossians 3:23-25). But serving with your eyes only on the one served—God himself—will take away much of the stress and strain of our work and we’ll do it with thankfulness for the one thing that matters.

Questions to ponder

If people that know you well could only describe you one way, which would it be: worker or enjoyer?

How can a hard worker fall into the trap of unthankfulness? How can an enjoyer fall into the same trap?

Ephesians 6:7 reads, “Work with enthusiasm, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people.” How does working with enthusiasm communicate thankfulness to others looking on?

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