The price Americans pay for working more than anyone

I am just coming back from taking time off from preaching and writing in parts of July and August. Ah, the wonders of vacation! People the world over take vacations. But we Americans push harder and vacation less than ever. Here’s the beginning of May 1 ABC News story by Dean Schabner:

Schabner writes,
Americans work more than anyone in the industrialized world. 
More than the English, more than the French, way more than the Germans or Norwegians. Even, recently, more than the Japanese. 
And Americans take less vacation, work longer days, and retire later too.
Americans work harder and vacation less than we did decades ago. And it appears that the segment of the working population that is getting hit the hardest is white-collar workers whose hours aren’t tracked with a time clock.

Schabner writes, “Author Juliet Schor, who wrote the best-selling book The Overworked American in 1992, concluded that in 1990 Americans worked an average of nearly one month more per year than in 1970.” A month per year is a significant amount of time.

The most important question is, what is this doing to our spiritual lives? Christian leaders are increasingly talking about it. I’ll recommend a couple of excellent resources by authors I know:

An Unhurried Life by Alan Fadling

Free: Spending Your Time and Money on What Matters Most by Mark Scandrette

Here’s how I sum up the problem in chapter 3 of Luminous. God is continually present, but the fall of humanity, people have tended to live as if he is irrelevant and uninvolved in everyday life. In other words, people the world over have practiced God’s absence rather than his presence. Overwork and underrest is one of our favorite ways to do this, American-style.

Practicing God’s absence takes different forms in different cultures. In the Western world, the growing norm is to fill up every available minute with some kind of activity. Multitasking is a necessity. We work, text, email, check social media, and eat – all at the same time. We have become chronic overschedulers and technology addicts who are uneasy without a steady stream of stimulation. This overcharged pace of life numbs us to God’s presence and leads us to practice God’s absence. (Luminous, 58)

Overwork. Underrest. Spiritual numbness. Practicing God’s absence. They pull on us like a powerful river current. There is a better life available if we want it badly enough to swim upstream rather than go with the prevailing current.

Note: Throughout 2014, my Friday posts will be excerpts and thoughts from Luminous: Living the Presence and Power of Jesus (IVP, 2013). My hope is that these posts launch you into the weekend in a Jesus-centered way.


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