A corollary to the principle that the significance of our work is in our attitude and our excellence, not in our position, is the myth that there is always a cause and effect relationship between how hard you work and how much you earn. Now on the surface this makes sense. If you are paid for piece work at a furniture factory, your pay may be directly related to how many sofa legs you install in one day. But in general, this cause and effect relationship does not exist. Think with me about the big picture.
There is so much that affects our pay that we have no control over. For example, who is working harder on a typical day, the Indonesian rice farmer whose income is barely enough to feed his family or Bill Gates? Do you see the point? These two people have incomes that are drastically different because of reasons that have nothing to do with how hard they are working. Quite frankly, just being born in America gives us a leg up on the income scale that has nothing to do with our skill, talent, or effort.
I remember one year in particular when I had an outstanding performance review at the major oil company where I worked. Unfortunately, it was a down year for oil prices and the merit raises varied from zero at the low end to two per cent for top performers; not even keeping up with inflation. In other years, if oil prices were up, even poor performers received a five per cent raise. In each case, while the intent of the system was to pay for performance, the actual numbers, on an absolute scale, did not mirror that.
My advice is, “Don’t put all your eggs in the ‘work harder, make more” basket.” The outcome is not worth it. The results are unpredictable and can be a source of discouragement if we are fully convinced that working harder is the answer to all financial challenges. It is a common trap to fall into. The implications are far reaching. This is what it looks like.
A husband thinks that if I work harder (i.e. longer hours), the sacrifice will be worth it for the better provision of my family. But we do this actually to the detriment of our family as we spend more hours away from home. We convince ourselves that this overwork is only a temporary situation and things will improve shortly. I can’t begin to count the number of “temporary” situations that have threatened to become permanent in our family and I suggest in yours too, if we are not careful.
The trap is equally appealing to wives. How many of you have thought to yourselves, “If only my husband would work harder, we could have more things, a better house, or at least a less-stressed budget.” You encourage him to take on more work responsibility while you assure him you can cover the bases at home for this “temporary” time. Don’t forget, temporary situations have a habit of becoming permanent.
When we recognize our work as part of God’s calling in our lives, we see how our work fits into the larger picture of our life and ministry. And we avoid the driven mentality that there is always more to accomplish, always more to acquire. Instead, we have found the balance of doing our work with excellence while avoiding the trap of finding our significance and financial reward through our position at work.