Working with God

June 3, 2012 - 5:00 am

“No one from the east or the west
    or from the desert can exalt themselves.
 It is God who judges:
    He brings one down, He exalts another.” — Psalm 75:6–7

It seems these days that the lines between work life and personal life are being increasingly blurred, if not completely merged together. Instead of the traditional 9-to-5, forty-hour work week, many people are working hours on end. Computers and technology have turned virtually every home into an office and every moment into an opportunity for work. It’s a mixed blessing, and certainly not all bad. But it has presented a trap that is worth looking out for. It’s so easy to fall in and so difficult to get out.

Here’s how Jewish sages have interpreted the psalmist’s words in Psalm 75. “No one from the east or the west or from the desert can exalt themselves” – no one who rises with the sun (that rises in the east) or goes to bed way after the setting of the sun (that sets in the west) or travels to the ends of the world (in far-out places like the desert) can ensure that they succeed. In other words, don’t make the mistake of thinking that greatness is the result of early starts, late hours, distant travel, or any other extreme human exertion. Rather “it is God who judges:  He brings one down, He exalts another.” Success is ultimately a gift from God. Period.

Now, of course, one has to put in effort. We must do our best to be successful. But there comes a point where there can be too much effort. There is no end to the amount of work that we can do if we let ourselves. There are always more emails we can write, more finishing touches to add, more phone calls to be made. It’s a never-ending cycle if we let it be one. Work can become a trap that keeps us from our family, our friends, and even our true selves.

While every person must decide on his or her own where to draw the line between working too much and working too little, it is imperative that every person bring God into the equation. With God in the picture the question is not “How much more can I do?” but rather “How much is enough?” People who work too much run the risk of believing that they control the world. Of course, our actions matter, but they are only part of the equation for success. We do what we can while realizing that God runs the show.

King David’s words, although penned thousands of years ago, are a fresh reminder for each of us to revisit our own work habits.


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