Christian Biblical Counsel: WORKAHOLISM, WORK, LAZINESS


The Beeline to Burnout

by June Hunt

“God is not interested in mere quantity production … we sometimes can do more by doing less.”

—Vance Havner

I.     Definitions

A. What Is Work?

Work is a physical or mental activity performed in an effort to produce a result.

B. What Is a Workaholic?

A workaholic is a person who is compulsively addicted to work, to the detriment of self and significant relationships.

C. What Are Some Biblical Principles Relating to Work?

•     God is a worker, and we are made in His image.

“Jesus said to them, ‘My Father is always at his work to this very day, and I, too, am working.’ ” (John 5:17)

•     God is the creator and owner of all things; therefore, it is for Him that we work.

“The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it.” (Psalm 24:1)

•     Work is a natural part of this life and a natural part of eternal life.

“The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it.” (Genesis 2:15)

“No longer will there be any curse. The throne of God and of the Lamb will be in the city, and his servants will serve him.” (Revelation 22:3)

•     Work is a requirement.

“For even when we were with you, we gave you this rule: ‘If a man will not work, he shall not eat.’ ” (2 Thessalonians 3:10)

•     Work that is worth doing should be worth doing well.

“Do you see a man skilled in his work? He will serve before kings; he will not serve before obscure men.” (Proverbs 22:29)

•     Work should never be done to the exclusion of rest and time with the Lord.

“For six days, work is to be done, but the seventh day shall be your holy day, a Sabbath of rest to the Lord. Whoever does any work on it must be put to death.” (Exodus 35:2)

•     The fruit of our work is established by God.

“May the favor of the Lord our God rest upon us; establish the work of our hands for us—yes, establish the work of our hands.” (Psalm 90:17)

•     Work must be done in God’s strength for lasting rewards.

“Unless the Lord builds the house, its builders labor in vain.” (Psalm 127:1)

•     People were meant to enjoy their work.

“A man can do nothing better than to eat and drink and find satisfaction in his work. This too, I see, is from the hand of God.” (Ecclesiastes 2:24)

•     The work of God for you is to believe
in His Son

—  The Greek word for “believe” is pisteuo, which means “to rely upon, to trust in.”

“The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent.” (John 6:29)

—  The priority of relying on Jesus applies to every area of your life, both spiritual and secular.

“Whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” (Colossians 3:17)

D. What Is Ambition?

Q “Is it wrong to be ambitious?”

Ambition is not always wrong. Ambition has two motives:

•     a humble desire to achieve a particular end

•     a selfish desire for rank, fame or power

•     Positive Ambition to Work …   selflessness


     Negative   Addiction to Work … selfishness


—  desire to do my best


—  compulsion to do more perfectly


—  desire to serve others


—  compulsion to look good before   others


—  desire to accomplish a higher good


—  compulsion for self-achievement


—  desire to fulfill God’s purpose


—  compulsion to fulfill my purpose


“God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” (1 Peter 5:5)


II.    Characteristics of a Workaholic

A. The Compulsive Worker’s Checklist

Do I feel that my work is the main source of my identity?

Do I dive into details and lists but have difficulty starting essentials?

Do I have difficulty pacing my time?

Do I have difficulty being satisfied with the final result?

Do I feel that my work is controlling me?

Do I make sure others know how much and how long I work?

Do I resent others for not working as hard as I think they should?

Do I feel guilty when I relax or have fun?

Do I often feel fatigued?

Do I put work above those closest to me?

Do I talk primarily about my activities?

Do I fear others might think I don’t work hard enough?

Do I have difficulty saying no?

Do I feel that the more I work, the more I will please God?

Do I have more devotion to my work than to the Lord?

“My heart began to despair over all my toilsome labor under the sun.”

(Ecclesiastes 2:20)

B. The Compulsive Worker’s Checkup

•     Do I have …

—  depression

—  sleeplessness

—  tense muscles

—  back pain

—  headaches

—  indigestion

—  cold sores or hives

—  grinding of teeth

—  tightness in chest

—  ulcers

—  chronic fatigue

—  upset stomach

“All his days his work is pain and grief; even at night his mind does not rest.”

(Ecclesiastes 2:23)


III.   Understanding the Causes of Workaholism

A. The Passion to Push

•     The push to prove


seeking   self-worth


•     The push to produce


seeking significance


•     The push to perform


seeking   admiration and recognition


•     The push to provide


feeling   indispensable


•     The push to protect


avoiding   intimate relationships


•     The push to be perfect


being rigid   and inflexible


•     The push to prosper


overemphasizing   material possessions


•     The push to please


viewing God as   rigid


“Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life, to mind your own business and to work with your hands, just as we told you, so that your daily life may win the respect of outsiders and so that you will not be dependent on anybody.”

(1 Thessalonians 4:11–12)

B. The Cycle of Compulsive Workaholism

•     Pain from family of origin

—  Negative messages

—  Performance-based acceptance

•     Push to perform and achieve

—  “If I can do enough, it will ease the pain.”

—  “If I achieve success, I will feel significant.”

•     Promise of success

—  “The ultimate is just around the corner.”

—  “A little more is all it will take.”

•     Perpetuated pain

—  Results are working harder, but producing less.

—  Burden of guilt results from neglecting others.

“I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do.”

(Romans 7:15)

C. Root Cause

Wrong Belief:

“I find significance in pleasing God and others through my useful productivity and performance.”

Right Belief:

My significance is found in God’s unconditional acceptance of me. All my activities are in service to Him. Therefore, I am free to have balance in work, rest, recreation and interaction with others.

“Whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” (Colossians 3:17)


IV.  Steps to Solution

A. Key Verse to Memorize

“So I commend the enjoyment of life, because nothing is better for a man under the sun than to eat and drink and be glad. Then joy will accompany him in his work all the days of the life God has given him under the sun.”

(Ecclesiastes 8:15)

B. Key Passage to Read and Reread

Luke 10:38–42

“As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said. But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, ‘Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!’ ‘Martha, Martha,’ the Lord answered, ‘you are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.’ ”

Single-minded Mary




Self-pitying Martyr Martha


•     Priority was time with the Lord.




•     Priority was duty and performance.

Workaholics   …

—  major on the minors

—  do the least important work


•     Focus was on Jesus.




•     Focus was on self.

Workaholics   …

—  compare themselves to others

—  complain about others


•     Withstood the pressure to forfeit time   with Jesus.




•     Was the source of the pressure.

Workaholics   …

—  command others

—  control others


•     Did work that was eternal.




•     Did work that was temporal.


C. How to Respond to the Workaholic

•     Control your tongue. Negative remarks only increase the pressure to perform.

—  Communicate unconditional love.

—  Compliment inner qualities.

—  Avoid critical remarks and judgmental statements.

—  Don’t communicate emotional “neediness.”

“The wise in heart are called discerning, and pleasant words promote instruction.”

(Proverbs 16:21)

•     Come to terms. Confront in love.

—  Read and learn all you can about workaholism.

—  Seek outside counseling, if necessary.

—  Identify the needs that produced the behavior.

—  Communicate what the behavior is doing to the relationship.

“Speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ.”

(Ephesians 4:15)

•     Cancel your resentment. Resentment builds bitterness.

—  Confess your resentment as sin.

—  Saturate your mind with Scripture.

—  Pray for God to change the desires of the workaholic.

—  Focus on the other person’s needs, not on your own need.

“See to it that no one misses the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many.”

(Hebrews 12:15)

D. Time Tips for Workaholics

•     Erase the thought that working day and night is sacrificial and spiritual.

“In vain you rise early and stay up late, toiling for food to eat—for he grants sleep to those he loves.” (Psalm 127:2)

•     Write a to-do list daily—preferably the evening before.

“Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Will he not first sit down and estimate the cost to see if he has enough money to complete it?” (Luke 14:28)

•     List your priorities in order of importance.

“The plans of the diligent lead to profit as surely as haste leads to poverty.” (Proverbs 21:5)

•     Establish a starting and finishing time for each task.

“There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven.” (Ecclesiastes 3:1)

•     Eliminate the open door policy.

“After he had dismissed them, he went up on a mountainside by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone.” (Matthew 14:23)

•     Set aside specific time for family, friends and for yourself.

“Those who plan what is good find love and faithfulness.” (Proverbs 14:22)

E. Freedom for the Workaholic

Firmly decide to live under grace, not law.

•     Realize that God’s favor cannot be earned.

•     Operate in the realm of unconditional love.

“Formerly, when you did not know God, you were slaves to those who by nature are not gods. But now that you know God—or rather are known by God—how is it that you are turning back to those weak and miserable principles? Do you wish to be enslaved by them all over again?” (Galatians 4:8–9)

Release the burden of guilt.

•     Forgive yourself for not being perfect.

•     Learn the difference between true guilt and false guilt.

“Let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water.” (Hebrews 10:22)

Eliminate your need to please others, and focus on pleasing God.

•     Know that workaholism is not pleasing to God.

•     Learn what is pleasing to God.

“Am I now trying to win the approval of men, or of God? Or am I trying to please men? If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a servant of Christ.” (Galatians 1:10)

Enlarge your commitment to time for rest, relaxation and communion with the Lord.

•     Learn to pause, worship and reflect on God during the day.

•     Slow down and appreciate the small things in life.

“All his days his work is pain and grief; even at night his mind does not rest. This too is meaningless.” (Ecclesiastes 2:23)

Decide to be completely honest about your feelings, and be vulnerable to others.

•     Face and release any resentment you feel toward your parents for not meeting your need for love and acceptance.

•     Become more aware of the feelings of others.

“Buy the truth and do not sell it; get wisdom, discipline and understanding.” (Proverbs 23:23)

Obey the law of love rather than the law of fear.

•     Love becomes the motive behind all activities.

•     Love frees you to become involved in the lives of others.

“So we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him. In this way, love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment, because in this world we are like him. There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.” (1 John 4:16–18)

Maintain your sense of significance and satisfy your need for security by finding your identity in Christ.

•     Recognize that no one is worthy in himself—the Lord establishes worthiness.

•     Be willing to die to self and let Christ live through you.

“I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” (Galatians 2:20)

Many   Christians work compulsively “as unto the Lord,” feeling their sacrificial   service is spiritual and even worthy of reward. Under the guise of worship,   these workaholics feel called to burn out for Jesus, yet Jesus never said,   “Burn out for Me.” Instead, the Lord said, “You are the light of the world.… Let your light shine before men …”   (Matthew 5:14, 16). As you shine with the light of Christ, remember, His   light is not compulsive, but calming—never driving, but drawing.

—June   Hunt




the Beeline to Burnout!

•     Do I have more devotion to my work than   devotion to the Lord?

•     Do I feel my work is controlling me?

•     Do I make sure others know how much and   how long I work?

•     Do I resent others for not working as   hard as I think they should?

•     Do I fear others might think I don’t work   hard enough?

•     Do I dive into details and lists but have   difficulty starting essentials?

•     Do I have difficulty being satisfied with   the final result?

•     Do I feel guilty when I relax or have   fun?

•     Do I feel that the more I work, the more   I will please God?

•     Do I primarily talk about my activities?

•     Do I have difficulty pacing my time?

•     Do I feel my work is the main source of   my identity?

•     Do I put work above those closest to me?

•     Do I often feel fatigued?

•     Do I have difficulty saying no?


Selected Bibliography

Hawkins, Don. Overworked: Successfully Managing Stress in the Workplace. Chicago: Moody, 1996.

Heavner, Robert. “Great Aspirations: How Ambitious Should a Christian Be?” Discipleship Journal, July/August 1988.

Hemfelt, Robert, Frank Minirth, and Paul Meier. We Are Driven: The Compulsive Behaviors America Applauds. Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1991.

Hester, Dennis J., comp. The Vance Havner Quotebook: Sparkling Gems from the Most Quoted Preacher in All America. Grand Rapids: Baker, 1986.

Hunt, June. Counseling Through Your Bible Handbook. Eugene, Oregon: Harvest House Publishers, 2007.

Hunt, June. How to Forgive … When You Don’t Feel Like It. Eugene, Oregon: Harvest House Publishers, 2007.

Hunt, June. How to Handle Your Emotions. Eugene, Oregon: Harvest House Publishers, 2008.

Hunt, June. Seeing Yourself Through God’s Eyes. Eugene, Oregon: Harvest House Publishers, 2008.

Kimmel, Tim. Little House on the Freeway: Help for the Hurried Home. Portland, OR: Multnomah, 1987.

Minirth, Frank, Paul Meier, Frank Wichern, Bill Brewer, and States Skipper. The Workaholic and His Family: An Inside Look. Grand Rapids: Baker, 1981.

Patterson, Philip D. Redeeming the Time: The Christian Walk in a Hurried World. Joplin, MO: College Press, 1995.

Ryan, Dale, and Juanita Ryan. Recovery from Workaholism: 6 Studies for Groups or Individuals. Life Recovery Guides. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 1993.

Sherman, Doug, and William Hendricks. How to Balance Competing Time Demands: Keeping the Five Most Important Areas of Your Life in Perspective. Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress, 1989.

Wright, H. Norman. Simplify Your Life and Get More Out of It! Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House, 1998.[1]

Work, Laziness

1.   At the dawn of history God called man to work as his servant.

Gen. 2:15. Then the Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to tend and keep it.

2.   Be a workman approved of God.

2 Tim. 2:15. Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.

3.   Do everything to the glory of God; perform your work in a way that glorifies him.

1 Cor. 10:31. Therefore, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.

Col. 3:17. And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.

4.   An industrious housewife and mother pleases the Lord and delights her husband.

Prov. 31:10–31.

5.   Christians must work in order to give to others; never steal.

Eph. 4:28. Let him who stole steal no longer, but rather let him labor, working with his hands what is good, that he may have something to give him who has need.

6.   Be a faithful worker so that you will be a good witness to outsiders and not be dependent on others.

1 Thess. 4:11–12. … that you also aspire to lead a quiet life, to mind your own business, and to work with your own hands, as we commanded you, that you may walk properly toward those who are outside, and that you may lack nothing.

7.   Be on guard against idleness.

2 Thess. 2:6–15.

2 Thess. 3:7–10. For you yourselves know how you ought to follow us, for we were not disorderly among you; nor did we eat anyone’s bread free of charge, but worked with labor and toil night and day, that we might not be a burden to any of you, not because we do not have authority, but to make ourselves an example of how you should follow us. For even when we were with you, we commanded you this: If anyone will not work, neither shall he eat.

8.   Earn your own bread.

2 Thess. 3:12. Now those who are such we command and exhort through our Lord Jesus Christ that they work in quietness and eat their own bread.

9.   The ant provides a lesson for lazy, careless people.

Prov. 6:6–11. Go to the ant, you sluggard! Consider her ways and be wise, Which, having no captain, Overseer or ruler, Provides her supplies in the summer, And gathers her food in the harvest. How long will you slumber, O sluggard? When will you rise from your sleep? A little sleep, a little slumber, A little folding of the hands to sleep—So shall your poverty come on you like a prowler, And your need like an armed man.

10. It’s a disgrace to be lazy.

Prov. 10:5. He who gathers in summer is a wise son; He who sleeps in harvest is a son who causes shame.

11. One who chases fantasies lacks judgment.

Prov. 12:11. He who tills his land will be satisfied with bread, But he who follows frivolity is devoid of understanding.

12. Mere talk leads to poverty.

Prov. 14:23. In all labor there is profit, But idle chatter leads only to poverty.

13. The way of the sluggard is hard.

Prov. 15:19. The way of the lazy man is like a hedge of thorns, But the way of the upright is a highway.

14. The shiftless man goes hungry.

Prov. 19:15. Laziness casts one into a deep sleep, And an idle person will suffer hunger.

15. Being lazy has its sad results.

Prov. 20:4. The lazy man will not plow because of winter; He will beg during harvest and have nothing.

16. Do not love sleep.

Prov. 20:13. Do not love sleep, lest you come to poverty; Open your eyes, and you will be satisfied with bread.

17. A shiftless sluggard will come to poverty.

Prov. 24:30–34. I went by the field of the lazy man, And by the vineyard of the man devoid of understanding; And there it was, all overgrown with thorns; Its surface was covered with nettles; Its stone wall was broken down. When I saw it, I considered it well; I looked on it and received instruction: A little sleep, a little slumber, A little folding of the hands to rest; So shall your poverty come like a prowler, And your need like an armed man.

18. The sluggard finds excuses not to work; he rationalizes his behavior.

Prov. 26:13–16. The lazy man says, “There is a lion in the road! A fierce lion is in the streets!” As a door turns on its hinges, So does the lazy man on his bed. The lazy man buries his hand in the bowl; It wearies him to bring it back to his mouth. The lazy man is wiser in his own eyes Than seven men who can answer sensibly.

19. The sleep of a laborer is sweet.

Eccles. 5:12. The sleep of a laboring man is sweet, Whether he eats little or much; But the abundance of the rich will not permit him to sleep.

20. In the parable of the talents Jesus teaches us to serve him faithfully with the talents he gives to us.

Matt. 25:14–30.

21. One who fails to provide for his family denies the faith.

1 Tim. 5:8. But if anyone does not provide for his own, and especially for those of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.

22. We must learn to work so that we may provide for daily necessities and live productive lives.

Titus 3:14. And let our people also learn to maintain good works, to meet urgent needs, that they may not be unfruitful.[2]


[1] Hunt, J. (2008). Biblical Counseling Keys on Workaholism: The Beeline to Burnout (1–11). Dallas, TX: Hope For The Heart.

[2] Kruis, J. G. (1994). Quick scripture reference for counseling (electronic ed.). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House.

1 thought on “Christian Biblical Counsel: WORKAHOLISM, WORK, LAZINESS

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