Calling out America’s idolatry of work & the need for rest

The day 45 was diagnosed with COVID-19 just over a week ago, White House physician Sean Conley said, “Rest assured I expect the president to continue carrying out his duties without disruption while recovering, and I will keep you updated on any future developments.”

The nation had mixed reactions to the news of the contentious president contracting coronavirus, but what struck me from the initial article I read was the line above.

Photo by Karolina Grabowska on
NOTE: When I searched the photobank for “labor” and “labor union,” this image came up. That the term “labor” and the American flag are linked is telling of how highly the U.S. values work.

The United States has such a pervasive culture of doing, of efficiency, and of work > everything that the first response when its elected leader contracts a potentially deadly virus was, “But he’ll keep working like nothing happened!”

Now, I get that he’s the president, and you don’t really get time off from that. That role carries an incredible amount of responsibility! But there are provisions allowed. Moreover, on the larger scale, the response from the White House demonstrates the continued idolatry of work in our culture.

We receive less paid time off in this country than in other developed nations, lack paid maternity leave and offer zero paternity leave, and choose not to pay our workers living wages, thus increasing the need for them to work overtime or juggle multiple jobs.

(Please read that last paragraph again and hover for the links; it’s too important of a message to miss.)

Yes, we value hard work as Americans, and that’s honorable, but is it possible that we value work too much?

Then Jesus said to them, “The Sabbath was made to meet the needs of people, and not people to meet the requirements of the Sabbath.”

Mark 2:27, NLT
Photo by Polina Zimmerman on

At the end of September, I called my friend and colleague to discuss our schedules, and I shared that I am doing my best to accomplish all my work for my two jobs, volunteerism, and new grad classes Monday through Saturday so I can take a full day off over the weekend.

I’d had a few weeks during my transition where I only took my mind off work for two to three hours at a time before some new crisis arose, and it nearly brought me to a breaking point. (Thankfully, a colleague intervened to help me get some rest.)

My friend got it, the need for a day off. She isn’t a Christian, but she understood that as human beings, we need a break sometimes. Sharing my commitment to rest allowed her to release Sunday as a day where she could also abstain from our shared work and just breathe and recuperate.

The Theology of Work Project writes, “Work and rest are not opposing forces, but elements of a rhythm that make good work and true recreation possible.”

The Nap Ministry also understands the power of rest, particularly as a form of resistance for Black woman constantly under the pressure of white supremacy, but also for anyone else doing the good work.

This weekend, give yourself a break. Loosen your grip and trust God to carry the world for you. If you’re feeling low, be especially sure to sleep in, eat well, and take care of your body. Jesus knew its value! Do you?