Overwork and Materialism: Not Just American Issues

via Bill Peel
March 16th, 2013

Your jaw may have dropped over the recent WSJ article “Wealth Over the Edge: Singapore.”   Only a few decades ago Singapore was a Third World country; today it enjoys First World status. And if economic growth rates continue, Singapore could very well become the world’s global economic center. 

Having visited this unique city twice, I can testify that it is not only beautiful, it ‘s also immaculate and quite safe. If you’re caught littering, you’ll be sentenced to a day of street cleaning.  Spit on the sidewalk and you’ll pay a hefty fine.  And they’re quite serious about crime in Singapore. Drug dealers face capital punishment.  

Kathy and I, along with LeTourneau University President Dr. Dale Lunsford and his wife Marsha, spent a week there, speaking at Hope Church Singapore and meeting with Christian business leaders. We learned that Singaporeans are even more serious about work than Americans.  They call themselves 9-to-9ers—not 9-to-5 workers. “Work is everything” is the national narrative, and success in Singapore is measured in Cs: by your cars, condos, clubs, credit cards and cash.

This commitment to hard work has, no doubt, played a huge role in Singapore’s extreme economic growth.  Yet recently Prime Minister Lee called on the nation to balance material goals with its ideals and values. “We are not impersonal, calculating robots, mindlessly pursuing economic growth and material wealth," he said.  The WSJ article observes, “The irony ... is that the very sources of Singapore's success may ultimately prove its undoing.” 

We met many Singaporeans who follow a different narrative. They understand that if you make anything other than God your priority, you’ll pay a price. Vibrant churches like Hope Church Singapore with a congregation of 5,000—mostly young people—and organizations like the Christian Medical Fellowship are helping Christians follow Christ in the workplace and in every area of life. I have spoken about workplace faith in many cities around the world, and I’ve found no more enthusiastic crowd than in Singapore. Over 400 men and women gave up two weekday evenings plus a Saturday afternoon to hear how they could bring Christ to their workplaces. Because of committed disciples such as these, the Christian population in Singapore is steadily growing.  More and more people are seeing the relevance of the Christian faith—not just on Sunday morning, but in every area of life.

The hope for Singapore—and America—is that Christians will help our nations re-narrate work. This hope depends on churches, such as Hope Church Singapore, making it a priority to help workplace Christians see their work from God’s perspective.

Telling God’s story about work is the business of the Center for Faith & Work at LeTourneau University. I hope you will join us.

What story are you telling about work?

Image by jo@net. Used with permission. Sourced via Flickr.