I've just read an interesting article from Comment magazine entitled "Making the most of college: Business, balance and learning to live". In the article, David Bentall tells of making a commitment early in his life not to "sell out" in pursuit of a successful career.
As a young boy, not having his father attend his soccer games led Bentall to decide to "live a balanced life". He continues this pursuit in college as he recounts an interaction with a professor.
Years later, when at university, I asked one of my professors if he thought it was possible to live a balanced life, and also be successful in business. Without hesitation, he assured me that it was impossible. I responded by telling him: "Then I guess I won't be successful." Ever since that day, I have been trying to prove him wrong.
Well, as it turns out, Mr. Bentall went on to a very successful career running a construction company. In the article, he shares three principles that helped him keep balanced in his work life -
- Commitment - "...the critical first step to living a life of balance is deciding that it is more important than other measures of "success." If the pursuit of power, prestige, position, possessions, or even pleasure are your primary goals, then they will dominate your life. If having these things are more important to you than balance, then they will win."
- Perspective - Bentall describes the benefits of taking a retreat from the "rat race" with this comment. "I had discovered a whole new perspective, simply by stepping out of the rat race for a single day. Perspective is what we need, so that we can gain more wisdom prior to re-entering the battle of everyday living"
- Sabbath - Bentall recommends we pay attention to Sabbath as a means to obtain rest and recover perspective. "The rest of the week is for work. I have now realized that sabbath is for living. These are the days which can help us gain well needed perspective..."
I've often heard people speak about "balance in life" but I haven't found it particularly helpful to think of living life in those terms. Although it seems to be conventional Christian wisdom, it doesn't seem to me that the Bible as a whole, instructs us in this way.
Perhaps I'm nitpicking, so please bear with me.
I struggle with the idea of pursuing "balance" as a primary framework for life because it carries a distinct Taoist, yin/yang flavor. Used as a means to regulate our lives, it also falls short of what Scripture really teaches. Here's an example - the Bible instructs us against a headlong pursuit of money, power, etc... not because it's inconsistent with a balanced life but because it's idolatry. That's far more serious than being out of balance - the point is that we cannot serve both money and God. As the only Sovereign One, God simply does not permit us to commit such treason without consequence.
Another problem with using a balanced life as a model is that it leads us to constantly wonder whether if we've achieved the right mix of the activities and responsibilities in our lives. After all, how much is too much?. At a practical level, it tends to focus on the externals of what we're doing instead of the state of our hearts.
The reality is that at times, godly men do difficult jobs that take them away from their families.
Is a job with 50% travel too much? Or should we only take jobs that have little travel? How about being in the military where many fathers won't make it to soccer games or ballet recitals because they're deployed in service to their country?
I'd like to suggest that the biblical model is different. It's centered on passionately loving Christ because He first loved us. No balance in view here - "dive head first", "put your hand to the plough and don't look back", "sell everything you have and come follow...", "lose your life for the sake of the gospel". All this because gaining Christ is the best news of all. And, we spread the supremacy of this love by loving our families, friends and neighbors through the labor of our hands.
Perhaps I'm wrong on this...so please help me out here and share your perspective.
Does the Bible have anything to say about living a balanced life?
Is it biblical to view life this way?
How do you view the priorities of your life in light of biblical teaching?