Well, my wife and I have discussed this several times, and on each occasion we arrive at the same conclusion: we need to stop focusing on ourselves and family, and think more about our fellow man (the rest of society)! We think that the majority of people tend to be consumers rather than producers, and that in our secular society today, people work primarily to serve themselves. The ultimate hope seems to be to achieve retirement as soon as possible, and to enjoy the pleasures of life indefinitely until death.
There's nothing wrong with rest and leisure, for we all need it to recover and rejuvenate, but there is a certain threshold or level at which rest and leisure become excessive. I don't know what that threshold is, but I do think that people should take the time to think about the meaning and purpose of their work.
According to Rabbi Daniel Lapin it isn't supposed to be this way. In his interview with Pat Roberston, he discusses his book, Thou Shall Prosper - 10 Commandments for Making Money, and he says that the 10th commandment is to never retire. He says plainly,
"...never retire...who told you that you could retire?"
In other words, nowhere in the Judeo-Christian tradition does it ever teach or mention that people are supposed to stop working and stop doing things for other people. He says that we are always called to serve other people, and should continually ask ourselves how we can supply what people need. This means that we should never resign or rest in this effort as long as we are mentally and physically capable. Contrast this with our secular society that indoctrinates us with TV commercials such as Freedom 55. We are told to serve only ourselves, and to retire to a life of luxury.
My wife and I are now headed in a different direction. We want to scale down, consume less, and become producers in order to serve our fellow man.
Here are some Judeo-Christian teachings about work that counter what our secular society preaches today.
- The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to till it and keep it. Genesis 2:15
- Show yourself in all respects a model of good deeds, and in your teaching show integrity, gravity, and sound speech that cannot be censured, so that an opponent may be put to shame, having nothing evil to say of us. Titus 2:7-8
- Let the thief no longer steal, but rather let him labor, doing honest work with his hands, so that he may be able to give to those in need. Ephesians 4:28.
- I made great works; I built houses and planted vineyards for myself; I made myself gardens and parks, and planted in them all kinds of fruit trees. I made myself pools from which to water the forest of growing trees. I
bought male and female slaves, and had slaves who were born in my
house; I had also great possessions of herds and flocks, more than any
who had been before me in Jerusalem. I
also gathered for myself silver and gold and the treasure of kings and
provinces; I got singers, both men and women, and many concubines, man’s delight.
So I became great and surpassed all who were before me in Jerusalem; also my wisdom remained with me. And whatever my eyes desired I did not keep from them; I kept my heart from no pleasure, for my heart found pleasure in all my toil, and this was my reward for all my toil. Then I considered all that my hands had done and the toil I had spent in doing it, and behold, all was vanity and a striving after wind, and there was nothing to be gained under the sun. Ecclesiastes 2:4-11
- "...work and the circumstances of everyday life are occasions for growing closer to God, for serving others, and for improving society." Opus Dei