Ponder this question. Is your work life a sanctuary or a prison?
Here’s my take: Work becomes a prison when it has been considered a sanctuary ahead of our full surrender to Christ. If we look at work as a place of refuge from life—its challenges, trials, and pain—and ignore God, we are on the way to prison for life without the possibility of parole. It may start out ok, but over time we will become an inmate.
The darker side of work begins to appear when it turns into an addiction. It’s what Psalm 91:3 calls “the fowler’s snare,” a bird catcher’s finely woven net that catches prey even though the trap is difficult for the victim to recognize. For us, the fowler’s share is a net in our own life that draws us toward and then eventually into evil.
Signs of the imbalance and pain usually do not show up early in our preoccupation with work. There is a lag. The purpose of viewing work as a sanctuary in the first place is to create a respite from the “pain of life,” and it usually works initially. Indeed, work can provide satisfaction on myriad fronts. But work is not a sanctuary! The trouble comes when we step away from work and the diversion expires. And it always does. That’s when we enter the prison gates and begin sacrificing opportunities to know God and subordinating everything else that is important in life to our insatiable thirst for work and its rewards.
One of God’s immutable laws is that we can’t create our own sanctuary—through work or anything else that takes over first place in our life like a hobby or relationship or activity we’re passionate about—and live in his inner sanctuary at the same time. I thought it would be possible to toggle between my work sanctuary and God’s sanctuary, but that bi-focal option does not exist. We can’t be in two places at one time. It’s our sanctuary or God’s sanctuary.
I tried to have both and it did not work. My succeed-at-all-costs lifestyle was so pervasive that I couldn’t be 100% available and present in the lives of those I loved the most. I was still holding back some areas of my life. I needed to put God ahead of everything.
HOW DO WE STAY OUT OF WORK’S PRISON?
Staying out of work’s prison cell and living in God’s inner sanctuary means putting him first in all areas of life. It means believing unequivocally that God loves us, will never desert us, and will never let us down. It means choosing to trust God over anything and everything.
The promise that God loved me and that all I had to do was take one small step toward him gave me the confidence to give God’s sanctuary a try. I felt undeserving and that my career might stall if people saw I was “backing off.” I was intensely fearful that my “business edge” would disappear. But it didn’t turn out that way. I was showered with God’s blessings after I choose his sanctuary over my work sanctuary. My career actually strengthened. I was no longer afraid if people in my business knew I was a Christian. God began to use my business platform to reach others for Christ.
Freedom has never felt as good as when I heard the prison doors slam behind me—just like an episode of Law & Order–and I stepped into God’s inner sanctuary.
“We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure. It enters the inner sanctuary behind the curtain, where our forerunner, Jesus, has entered on our behalf. He has become a high priest forever, in the order of Melchizedek.” Hebrews 6:19-20