Working Hard or Hardly Working? Colossians 3:23, and the 7th Commandment

Many years ago, when I was young and working the second real job I had ever held, I bought a portable Zip drive so I could download files at work that were too large for my home Internet connection to handle.  My boss noticed the bright blue drive and asked why I had brought that in.  When I told him, he laughed at me disapprovingly.  He was disappointed in me, and rightfully so.  I felt ashamed, and learned a lesson. Like viewing non-work-related web sites during work hours at this particular company, it was not an appropriate use of work resources, and I should have known better.

One of the special graces Catholics have available is the ability to go to confession, contritely confess all of the sins you can remember, and be completely forgiven.

But how do you remember all the sins you committed?  Some people prepare for confession by going through The Ten Commandments and asking themselves whether they broke any of them.  The seventh commandment is “Thou shall not steal.”

My pastor told the congregation one day, “You may think you haven’t stolen anything, but what about stealing from your employer?  Taking office supplies is obvious theft, but did you know wasting time that your employer pays you for is a form of stealing too?”  This really hit home for me.

I don’t think there’s a person alive that has not looked at a non-work-related web site at work.  If you want to use some of your break time to take a peek at your email or the news, I don’t see a problem, and most bosses don’t either.  Many companies, especially on the west coast, even encourage non-work related activity at work, as long as you actually get your work done on time.

But if you’re extending your breaks or interrupting your work for hours to play games or read non-work related news, social media, or otherwise procrastinate on the real work you have to do, there’s a problem.

I knew one guy who watched Netflix when he should have been answering support tickets.  The result was predictable: customer unhappiness and increased stress on co-workers.  The customers that had written in expecting replies from him got delayed responses, and others on the team had to pick up the slack.  He was a knowledgeable and helpful worker when he wanted to be, but just didn’t have the right attitude.

Everyone has temptations to procrastinate sometimes.  When I get tempted, I try and bring to mind this verse:

“Whatever your task, work heartily, as serving the Lord and not men …” – Colossians 3:23

Another way of saying this is, “Make sure you bust your butt, because you really work for the Lord.”

The average person puts in about 3 hours per day of actual productive work.  Be better than average.  Do your best.  I keep myself honest by tracking my time at work using a tool called RescueTime.  Here’s an example of RescueTime in action:


I also motivate myself by trying to get my hardest task out of the way first, before anything else is done in the day.  This concept is called eating the frog.  Block out an hour of your time first thing in the morning and eat that frog.  You’ll feel great for the rest of the day because you got your hardest task out of the way.