AMERICANS TOP THE LIST OF THOSE IN INDUSTRIALIZED countries who work more overtime and take less vacation. Studies indicate that more than half of U.S. executives don’t use all their vacation time, with 58 percent claiming job pressure as the reason. Similar statistics appear to hold true for numerous occupations and income levels.*
Our European counterparts, however, don’t have the same mind-set. Germans, for example, work an average of 1,436 hours a year, compared to the 1,804 hours Americans do. And because their six weeks of annual vacation time is federally mandated, they’re not smitten with guilt while on holiday. British workers average a full month of paid leave annually. In France full-time workers are guaranteed at least five weeks.
So why do Americans hesitate “to get away from it all”? Reasons vary. Some cite pressure from bosses, fear of losing their jobs, unreasonably high expectations of work output, and even a sense of pride for being a workaholic. But the cost is high.
Burnout, health problems, more mistakes, and a decrease in productivity are among the perils. And for Christians, the price paid can also be spiritual.
Ellen White in The Faith I Live By, page 233, says that Jesus “did not urge upon His disciples the necessity of ceaseless toil,” because when overworked, “the powers of mind and soul and body are overtaxed.” And a statement in The Great Controversy, page 519, gives us even more pause: “Satan well knows that all whom he can lead to neglect prayer and the searching of the Scriptures will be overcome by his attacks. Therefore he invents every possible device to engross the mind.”
Having a strong work ethic is important, but when it negatively impacts our health and our time and energy for Bible study, prayer, and solitude with God, the consequences can be eternal.
* Statistics were gleaned from numerous news reports.
Sandra Blackmer is features editor of the Adventist Review. This article was published November 18, 2010.