Workism is a common topic here at The Stone Table because of its prevalence both across the US and throughout much of the Western world.
Workism can be presented in many ways, often as one seeking a sense of self-worth or value from their work, but it can also be a sticky challenge to overcome when it begins to be tied in with our desire to be accepted by others.
A few questions to open the box with are these:
- Are you working [where you’re working] to please or impress others?
- Is your work driven by a sense of pride?
These two questions can begin to get the wheels turning in your mind as we begin to unpack what may lie hidden in our hearts.
Workism the Proud
Often it can be easy to be consumed by a platform. I think of myself, even, when I imagine being in a leadership role someday in ministry. I’ve seen this happen with others, and mentors near me are constantly encouraging me to remain in the Lord and abide in His humility. Workism is one precursor, as well as a consequence, of a relationship to work that centers on pride.
Now, of course it is not a bad thing to be proud of one’s work – not at all – but where the heart is revealed in workism is that the pride becomes the driving factor of one’s work relationship. This is the typical story of the high-powered lawyer that works his or her job in the big city simply because they were coerced to get perfect grades, go to an Ivy League school, and land the epic job of a lifetime at the biggest firm possible; with a colossal paycheck to back it up.
Workism is revealed not in this person being inherently prideful because of their role, but rather in the notion that one can easily become lost in the accolades of their position. It does not mean that all successful lawyers are prideful, of course not; but it does mean that we can be significantly more susceptible to prideful work when we have been handed all the titles & platforms of our dreams.
As a Christian, this is where humility, derived from the example of Christ, becomes a major powerplay against workism. It is hard to imagine one being empowered to stand against the schemes of the devil, including pride, when one is without the power of the Holy Spirit in their hearts. Therefore, it becomes even more pertinent for the Spirit-empowered Christian to capitalize on the depth of their walk with Christ to dodge the devious plots of the enemy, which are increasingly warring against our souls in this economic world.
When the spotlight is on us, how will the world see us? Will we be equally as wrapped up into prideful work as those around us who do not know Christ?
Our walk must be continually placed before the Lord. As we exalt Him and humble ourselves, being faithful with what He’s given us, He will lift us up (James 4:10, Luke 16:10). As He does, we must remind ourselves why He has placed us there – not to glory in our achievements, but to work in His grace and make an impact for the kingdom. Workism has no place in that.
Workism the Accepting
Often, workism is a shout of wanting to be accepted by others. Our jobs can play a pivotal role in perspectives that others hold of us. If you’d like a flavor of conviction, imagine your first thought when you see an overnight janitor at a hospital and compare it to when you see a medical doctor. What was your perspective of each?
Workism provides a false route for us to achieve acceptance. One may easily fall into the trap of believing that their great success in work will bring them respect among others; however, when we unpack this concept, it reveals a hurting heart that is simply looking for acceptance in the wrong places.
Unfortunately, we have allowed the devil to lie to us frequently enough to believe that our work is our identity or our route to acceptance. We, even as Christians, can be forgetful when it comes to just how much God loves us. It is not from a desperate attempt to attain acceptance that we work, but rather from the source of all love, the heart of the Father, that we can combat workism and keep our hearts aligned with His plan in work: missional purpose.
Workism is a lie. It is sold to us in pretty packages that promise endless levels of admiration, respect, and fulfillment. It tells us that we will be clothed in joy, peace, and power, all the while taking our joy, peace, and power from us. It is a sly tactic of the enemy to distract the people from the true nature of work and slants their eyes to see work as the idol to be worshipped.
Often we can be seeking to be accepted by ensuring that we can get as much work done as possible. Even I can resonate with this attitude sometimes, too, as a well-known people pleaser myself. I have often felt that my performance was the necessary route in which I was to be known, accepted, and loved by those I worked with. Of course, our work ethic & output are important, but the subtle exchange is found in that workism tells us we must work to be accepted, where the Gospel tells us we can work because we are accepted.
Acceptance does not come from work. Acceptance does not come from performance. Acceptance comes from Christ Jesus, who granted to us personal access to the endless grace of the Father who loves us beyond measure. It is in this love that we find acceptance, not in our work alone.
Workism and the Antidote
The world would prescribe something real smooth to get us out of this rut, if we even wanted to get out at all. I think their prescription for workism may be something along the lines of “change your perspective” or “stop doing that”. Seems effective. But how?
When it comes down to it, where is the power in the world? Willpower? We know we fail there every time. Then what? Cycles of shame, inadequacy, and hopelessness? Seems fruitful. There is nothing that can top the love of Christ.
Workism is a powerful crutch for a heart that is broken, but there is only one Divine Surgeon, and it is not our work.
The love of Christ and His forgiveness, having restored us to right standing with God the Father, is the only key to healing our hearts. This goes for workism, emotional trauma, violence, addiction, political & racial unrest, and anything else that you can name in this broken world. Christ is the answer. Christ is the key. And without the healing power of His Spirit, we are not able to overcome the temptations of sin – even those found in our work.
Let us be reminded how unimaginably blessed we are to know the One who is “the way, the truth, and the life”. May we never take His eternal acceptance for granted.