Scientists call it “Ergomania.” It is a word composed of two Latin roots. “Ergo,” meaning work, and “mania,” meaning passion. Ergomania, thusly, is a “passion for work.” In contemporary society we use a different term: The “workaholic.” The condition is not limited to corporate offices or the manufacturing plant. It thrives in houses of worship.
It’s been my experience that we religious people work very hard, often killing ourselves for God, spiritually, emotionally, and physically. Why? I believe it is because we do not believe that God really loves us. Most of us are working like slaves to earn an ambivalent God’s love, unaware, it seems, that his love is already ours in abundance. That God would take us just as we are, that he loves us just as we are, is too much for us to accept.
And why should we believe it? When we were young, it was all about perfect attendance pins, achievements, and all those little check marks on our weekly reporting at Sunday School. We learned quickly that we could measure a person’s spirituality, thus their worth as an individual, by how many gold stars they had beside their name.
When we got older, the exercise continued, now measured by different gold stars. Volunteer, serve, give, teach Bible study class, lead the choir, chaperone the youth group, chair the Stewardship Committee; and the congregation will sing your praises. But the second you relent, the moment you acknowledge your exhaustion, then that familiar conditional approval will rear its ugly head.
Yet, with words that make most type-A congregational leaders cringe, Jesus said, “Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. Walk with me…Learn the unforced rhythms of grace.”
That is what we religious laborers need, because the people that Jesus most wants to set free are those of us who are eyeballs deep in religious work, we who are religious ergomaniacs. His invitation is for us to get off of the spiritual hamster wheel and to crawl out from beneath the choking yoke of religious workoholicism, and dance freely to the easy tempo of grace.
Grace will teach us to serve God, not to make him like us, but because he already adores us. It will teach us to give up our overachieving and slaving ways, and find peaceful rest for our souls.
Ronnie McBrayer is a syndicated columnist, speaker, and author of multiple books. You can read more and receive regular e-columns in your inbox at www.ronniemcbrayer.me.