Work/family balance is a conflict that causes stress for every Christian business person. When we look at what the Bible has to say about it, the insights may surprise you.
There are certain ideas bantered about so frequently and repeated with such sincerity that no one questions their accuracy. One such idea is the issue of work/home balance.
You can easily spend more time in the business, and just as easily spend more time with the family.
The idea is that there is a conflict between one’s work and one’s home life. Particularly for entrepreneurs and business people, the issue is poignant and fraught with negative consequences. For an entrepreneur, not a week goes by when he/she doesn’t feel guilty for choosing one side or the other. You can easily spend more time in the business, and just as easily spend more time with the family. Going home often means leaving something undone at the business. So, you are guilty and anxious about that. Attending to the task at the business often means leaving something undone at home, or someone unattended to, and you feel guilty about that. For most entrepreneurs, then, most weeks are a lose/lose proposition. No matter what you do, it causes negative consequences.
Books have been written on the subject, and consultants have developed careers built around giving advice to those in the throes of the issue. Clearly the issue has a lot of currency in our culture. It is in these kinds of issues that some Biblical guidance is helpful. What does the Bible say about work/home balance?
It is a non-issue in the Bible. I know this will upset lots of people, but when you look at the two sides in the equation — family and business – you discover almost nothing about family, and quite a few examples and instructions about business. For example, we almost never see young children in the Bible. I am aware of only two appearances of a young child: The first occurs in the story of the adolescent Jesus, being lost for three days on his parent’s trip home from Jerusalem. He was more likely an adolescent in this story than a young child. Then, there is the incident of Jesus explaining to the disciples that one needed to be like a young child in order to enter into the kingdom of God. There were young children present at that event.
There are no examples of family meals together, or parents spending ‘quality time’ with young children. In the Bible, there wasn’t a dichotomy between work and family: Folks didn’t bring their work home to the family, they brought the family into the business. When we see children, they are almost always teenagers or young adults, and almost always within the context of the family business. For example,…
- Joseph was, along with his brothers, tending to a portion of his father’s massive livestock holdings when he was sold as a slave.
- Saul was attending to a project for his father’s business when he was called to be Israel’s first king.
- David was tending to his father’s assets (sheep) when he was called to be King of Israel.
While there is little guidance in the form of specific directions on this issue, we do see a pattern modeled in the Bible. The pattern is that the family joins the head of the household in the family business.
Now, before we go off on all the reasons why the Biblical model won’t work today, let’s just play a bit with the idea. What could it look like, if we were to try to bring our families into the business, rather than separate the two? A starting point would be the ‘Bring your child to work’ day. But that is a relatively innocuous event relative to what you could do. For example, evening meals could be a time to discuss the day’s events at work — the problems, challenges and successes – just as much or more than the kid’s school day.
There may some business tasks that might be delegated to the family. For example, at one point in my life I was a salesperson for a hospital supply distributor. My company provided weekly sales reports, showing every item ordered, shipped and invoiced to every customer. That was nice, but I wanted to see patterns over time. In other words, I wanted to know what they bought this week, last week, the week before that, etc. So, I had my kids cut up the computer reports, sort them by customer, staple them to scrap paper, and file alphabetically in my account folders. They earned their allowance, got an insight into Dad’s job, and provided a valuable service.
The possibilities for involving families in the business are virtually unlimited. It just takes a change in mind-set and some creative thinking.
Business picnics and outings could bring people together and provide a topic of conversation in the family. Business can undertake service projects – painting a widow’s home, tiding up a roadway, etc., and turn them into family events. The possibilities for involving families in the business are virtually unlimited. It just takes a change in mind-set and some creative thinking. You could ask yourself this question: “What changes can I make in the business that will allow us to more regularly bring families into the business?” If you have an executive team, brainstorm the same question. Just the fact that you are asking that question alone separates you from the clear majority of businesses in the world. It’s the first step in providing a Biblical solution to the work/family conflict.
We are living in an age when many parents revolve their lives around their children. As a result, the children naturally gain the idea that the world revolves around them, and that they are entitled to whatever they want. Christian business can provide a real-life opportunity for the kids to be involved in something bigger than themselves. Within the business context they learn work ethic, responsibility, getting along with others, and taking direction from authority figures.
Christian businesses are uniquely positioned to provide a focal point for the family, to help in the development of the stakeholder’s families, and to alleviate the work/home conflict. Biblical businesses build better families.
If you have an example of some ways families are involved in your business or job, please comment and share it. Let’s learn from each other.