Seems like everywhere you look these days, someone offers advice on “work-life balance.” This sounds more like “Parasite Management 101” rather than a remedy for obtaining order amid the chaos. After all, isn’t “life” the totality of your existence? So would you want to balance your whole “life” with only the portion of it called “work”?
One website says that “Work-life balance” is a “concept that describes the prototype of splitting one’s time and energy between work and other important aspects of their life.”
What? That’s 50-50! Who said work gets 50% of my time and energy? Those scales are not fair at all.
But there is Good News! Fair scales do exist. And since today is Labor Day, you have probably already thought about or encountered these scales at some point today.
“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light” Matthew 11:28-30
Jesus is saying, paraphrased, “Come to me all you who are weary and tired, who are struggling, who are working hard to get by, who are emotionally discouraged, who are ready to give up on life (and did I mention those who hate their job!?!?). Basically, all of you who are weighed down with life’s circumstances and the unjust scales of secular nonsense called “work-life balance”. Seriously, is that a thing? Come to me and I will give you rest, relief from the burdens you are carrying, a refreshing (!).”
Now, I don’t know about you, but I would love to have a refreshing! Especially from Jesus.
Jesus doesn’t specify what the “rest” or “refreshing” is because it is “rest for your souls.” Rest at the soul level will be different for each person. Jesus always meets us exactly where we are. Whatever rest He gives, will be tailor-made for the recipient. So I am fully expecting Him to rip me up and out of a hated job (which I may have mentioned once or twice).
But, what about “balance”?
This is the Labor Day cool part.
In Matthew 11:28, the word “yoke” refers to “a bar or frame of wood by which two draft animals are joined at the head or neck in order to work together effectively in pulling a plow, harrow, or wagon” (Louw-Nida Greek-English Lexicon of the NT). (Harrow is a thing that breaks up clods of dirt, yeah, I had to look that one up too.)
Seriously, I am an animal lover so these images are a little difficult for me to look at although I know they are not technically being mistreated. They have a home, food, water, and get plenty of exercise. Still, I am thankful that God gave someone the intelligence to invent cars and tractors. In Jesus’ time, and in under-developed areas of the world today, animals are yoked together for transportation, farm work, etc.
Back to the Greek word for “yoke”… It can also mean “the lever of a balance.” By use of the literary device “synecdoche” it also refers to “a pair of scales” or “balance.” For example, the word “scales” in Revelation 6:5 is the same word as “yoke” in Matthew 11:29:
When he opened the third seal, I heard the third living creature say, “Come!” And I looked, and behold, a black horse! And its rider had a pair of scales in his hand. Revelation 6:5
Jesus used the word meaning of “yoke” because “Take my scales upon you…” wouldn’t really make that much sense. Nonetheless, by knowing the multiple uses of the word, texture is added to the meaning (in either verse) so that it can be understood better.
Animals yoked together make the load lighter for the other by balancing the weight between them. By taking Jesus’ yoke upon ourselves and learning from Him, He helps to balance things out in our life by teaching us His ways, and especially by revealing the Father to us (Matt. 11:27). He not only helps us carry the burdens but participates with us in the suffering—to endure troubles, withstand misfortunes, and overcome disappointments.
Basically, and this is an oversimplification of a much greater work, Jesus puts all things in perspective. As long as Jesus is in the picture, the view is always balanced.
In Gerald May’s “The Dark Night of the Soul,” he explains that Teresa of Avila and John of the Cross wrote about “active” and “passive” dimensions of the spiritual life.
“Active” is what we feel we are doing on our own, while “passive” seems to come as sheer gift from God (May, 79). Therefore, we shouldn’t cling to the either/or dualism of “God and me,” but remember the unfathomable, mysteriously intimate co-participation of “God in me, I in God, God as me” (May, 76).
Isn’t this another way of talking about yoke and scales being dimensions of the same word? The Holy Spirit helps in spiritual growth activities that we “do” such as reading the Bible, praying, journaling, church attendance, etc. But there are some things too overwhelming to bear—the death of a loved one, chronic illness, feeling stuck, unanswered prayer. Face it, we are spiritual weenies when it comes to these type situations.
In the dire moments of life, we need Jesus to help us bear the burdens, to help balance the load. He is the loving hands of our Father in heaven Who loves us more than we can comprehend.
It doesn’t stop there. This balance is ours always, not just in the tragedies of life. Taking a test, having a baby, going to the grocery store, conflict at work, sharpie ink on a fresh manicure from writing your name on a yogurt cup—whatever it is, Jesus is there!
From here on out, we really don’t need another article or book on “work-life balance”. Seriously, is that a thing?
From this Labor Day forth, as you rest from your labors, let every Labor Day from here until eternity, remind you of this new proclamation—that for you who labor and are weary, Jesus is your “life balance.” Jesus is the “the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Him” (John 14:6).
All things have been handed over to me by my Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him. Matthew 11:27
Jesus, I come to you today, weary and burdened, seeking rest. You know my heart Lord, and the heart of each person reading this. Give us rest for our souls as You meet each of us exactly where we are. Thank you for the rest that you give and that you teach us to find. Jesus, thank You for revealing the Father. Jesus, You prayed for us in John 17:21 “that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me.” Oh Lord Jesus, this seems so mysterious but I sense You saying “take it at face value.” Even then, it is still difficult to understand. Please help me to not only understand this verse but also to experience it fully. Jesus, I want the world to believe that God sent You. I want all people to have the rest that You give. In Your Most Holy Name, Amen.
Gerald May, The Dark Night of The Soul: A Psychiatrist Explores the Connection Between Darkness and Spiritual Growth. San Francison: Harper Collins, 2004.