Friday, September 20, 2013

God and the 9-5 Culture

by Jonathan Harrison

Dead in the shower at 21 years old. That's how London authorities found Moritz Erhardt last month. Shortly after the story of the banking intern hit the news, rumors began to spread that Moritz had worked 72 straight hours before collapsing in the shower at his London flat. In the two weeks prior to his death, Moritz reportedly pulled 8 all-nighters. If you believe the rumors, Moritz Erhardt literally worked himself to death.

I don't work in the financial industry, so I don't know what part of banking required Moritz to work an inhuman number of hours. However,everyone knows someone like Moritz. Everyone knows the person that works an inhuman amount of hours in the office for the sake of being successful in their career. I don't think there is anything wrong with wanting to be successful, but I also have to ask: "What's so magical about spending so much time at work?"

Most sane people will answer that question with "Idk." However, work tends to make a large number of people insane. In the case of Moritz, if the young man knew that the internship would kill him, he probably would have tried to get more sleep or contemplate a career change; however, he didn't know the internship would kill him, and he probably envisioned a very lucrative career making $250,000+ working for the financial sector of a well known banking company. 

This industry clearly equates monetary worth with time spent working in the office, and while I can't speak for banking sector, I've seen the exact same mentality among my peers at work and in life. For some, the time you spend at work directly correlates to the amount of work you complete: if you leave early to avoid driving in the snow, it means you're lazy and don't want to sacrifice yourself for your job; if you're not willing to stay an extra hour to finish an arbitrary project, maybe they should find someone who will; and if you can finish the same amount of work in two hours that most people achieve in eight hours, you should stay the full eight hours and complete four times as much work as everyone else.

Wait. What? How does this even make sense? Worst of all, a lot of people who think this way consider themselves to be Christian. They claim to worship a God who took a day off. Never mind that computers and the internet have made 9-5 illogical. Never mind that idolizing time spent at work rewards people for not working (if you have be there nine hours, why spend the whole time working? You won't be rewarded for working harder or smarter). Never mind that excessive time spent at work minimizes time spent with family, time spent praying, time spent helping feed the homeless, etc. Idolizing time spent at work ignores the fact that we worship a God that made it one of His ten principle commands to not work 14.28% of the week. How does that make sense, and how can Christians ignore this fact?

For what it's worth, ask yourself what you're doing, why you're doing it, and what you mean to accomplish. The second most recorded regret of those on their death bed was working too much.  Maybe God took the day off for a reason? Who knows. As one of my coworkers told me a few months back "If you make work your idol, it will eat you alive." For some people, like in the case of Moritz Erhardt, this is more than just a cliche statement, but a very stark and real reality. 

Jonathan Harrison recently started coursework to earn his MBA (not a joke). He is the author of Marketing for the Good and wants to give back by teaching nonprofits how to use marketing to improve the world. Follow him on the twitter at @jonateharrison.

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