A Misunderstanding of the Work/Life Balance

By Rev. Tim Yee

July 9, 2017

[Jethro said to Moses,] “What you are doing is not good.”

Exodus 18:17


A person walking on a balancing chair.This past Father’s Day my wife and kids gifted me a smart watch that has a constant read on my vitals: heart-rate, steps taken, calories expended, etc. It even reminds me to breathe every so often. Now only if there was an app that could gauge my work/life balance!

Moses didn’t have a smart watch but he did have a smart mentor. Jethro, his father-in-law, spoke clearly about Moses’s leadership so that he could have a much healthier work/life balance. Pastors are strongly encouraged to consider their work/life balance on their sabbaticals (which I’m currently on) and so I chose to read Dave Evans and Bill Burnett’s book, Designing Your Life as one practical way to evaluate my work and life.

In a live-audience discussion on their book, they suggested to not think of work/life balance as a zero-sum game. They argue it’s somewhat of a false dichotomy to think that you have to choose between thriving work and a thriving life. To assume that the more hours you focus on “work” directly undermines your personal life is an oversimplification. Even with the healthiest of leaders, there are times when it’s necessary to put extra hours and effort into work-related activities, which in turn supports a thriving personal life. Likewise, there are times when healthy leaders invest more into their personal lives, which doesn’t mean that their work lives will automatically suffer.

But we know so many anecdotal stories of the over-worked leader who sacrifices the family or personal health for the sake of the mission that it’s hard to imagine that work/life isn’t a zero-sum game. The increase of one seems to always impact the other. But I’m challenging myself to imagine that it is possible to have both thriving work and a thriving life. Since we serve a God who is powerful, creative, good, and faithful, I trust that there must be a way for each human to enjoy work and enjoy life so that the two aren’t necessarily in conflict! I know I’m challenging myself to believe this, as I want to have an integrated life that doesn’t pit “work” against “life”. Since we each were created to “work” we shouldn’t assume it’s taking away from “life”! In fact, from a biblical point of view, our work is a central facet of our life.


Do you agree with Evans and Burnett that it’s a false dichotomy to present the notion of work/life balance as a zero-sum game? Can you look back at a season when both your work and your personal life were thriving? What changes can you make to help this become a reality this upcoming year?

Evans and Burnett have helped thousands of students and leaders reflect on these questions:

How do I find a job that I like or maybe even love?

How do I build a career that will make me a good living?

How do I balance my career with my family?

How can I make a difference in the world?

Which of these questions most resonates with you? Who could you connect with to assist you in moving forward in answering this question with hopefulness and direction?


Father, I know you don’t give bad things to your children so help me to believe this as I try to balance my life and work. I don’t want to see either as opposing the other and yet I find it difficult to thrive in both simultaneously. Help me to find a job that I enjoy or to simply enjoy my current job. Provide the resources that I need each day to not only survive, but to thrive. Give me a life outside of my career that is filled with meaningful relationships but also may the work I do be filled with purpose as it impacts the world for the better in the name of Jesus. Spirit, show me if there is something you want me to focus on to be more aligned with your purposes. Thank you for loving me and wanting good things for me. Amen.


Explore more at the Theology of Work Project online commentaryRest and Work: Conclusions

Rev. Tim Yee

Contributor Emeritus & Pastor

Rev. Tim Yee is Pastor of Union Church of Los Angeles, a 100-year-old church in downtown L.A.’s Little Tokyo District where he serves a diverse church of professionals, internment camp survivors, artists and homeless. He serves on the Board of Union Rescue Mission where he leads the P...

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