By Clarence L. Haynes Jr., Crosswalk.com
Whether you have heard the term “hustle culture” or not, you have probably been impacted by it. Terms like “on the grind” or “working a side hustle” are more and more prevalent in our society. With the rise of the gig economy, it seems like people are either looking for a hustle or engaged in one. Granted, some people are doing this to make ends meet, and you must respect that, but are we in danger of taking this too far? While the hustle culture is prevalent in society, has it found its way into the church, and if it has is it supposed to be that way?
What Is Hustle Culture?
Hustle culture is the mindset that you must always be working hard in pursuit of your dreams, goals, and aspirations. The engagement in the hustle takes center place in your life as you go after your pursuits at all costs. This can lead to neglecting other aspects of your life because you are going after the dream.
Whether you realize it or not, this ideology has been present in the church for a long time, we just never called it hustle culture; we called it serving or ministry. Many times, pastors and leaders would put such a high importance on ministry that they would encourage people to make church and serving in church the center point of their life.
A Real Example of Hustle Culture
I used to go to a church which had four services. They would have Sunday school and then three additional services. The Sunday school started at nine in the morning and the last service finished about 10 o’clock at night. I can remember many Sundays the pastor would stand in the pulpit and encourage people to spend the entire day in the church. One Sunday, I took him up on the offer; I went to Sunday school and then stayed for all three services afterward. All I can say is by the time the last service ended, I was totally exhausted. By the time I got home it was close to 11 at night and I had to go to work the next day. It didn’t take me long to realize this was not a good idea. I wasn’t more refreshed, I didn’t feel closer to Jesus, I just felt tired. For that day I had hustled my way to exhaustion.
If this was just about going to church that would be one thing, but we apply this same mentality to those who serve in church as well. Many people I know don’t just serve in one ministry, that is simply not enough. Many people are serving in two, three, four, or more ministries. Whether they call it by name or not, they have created a hustle culture mentality within the walls of the church.
Does Christianity Encourage Hustle Culture?
While churches may encourage hustle culture, the Bible doesn’t and therefore neither does real Christianity. Perhaps the greatest example of this is seen in the lives of Mary and Martha.
“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 few things are needed — or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her’” (Luke 10:38-42).
Martha was the picture of hustle culture. She was on the grind focusing on all the preparations that had to be made. According to Jesus, she was distracted. This is what the hustle does. It causes you to shift your priorities away from what is more important. Jesus told Martha you are focusing on doing more when you should be focusing on doing less. Jesus didn’t commend her hustle but encouraged her to change her focus. The one who was not hustling, but sitting at Jesus’ feet, was Mary and Jesus told her this was the better option. If there ever was a rebuke of hustle culture, this was it.
4 Ways to Counter Hustle Culture
If hustle culture is not necessary for your Christian life, then how do you counter it? By the way I will extend this to not just serving in church, but to work, career, business, or any endeavor you are pursuing. Let me leave you with four things to put value on that will help you avoid falling into the trap of hustle culture.
1. Value Relationships
Life is all about relationships – your relationship to God and your relationship to others. It can be easy to forget this when you are on your grind because you are trying to be productive and make things happen. Please remember your life is not just about productivity, it is about connectivity. How many times did Jesus withdraw from the crowds so he could spend time with the Father? By doing this, he was setting an example that trying to do more is not always the answer, especially if you sacrifice relationships with God and others in the process.
2. Value Rest
Sometimes we think we are the Energizer bunny, and we can keep going, and going, and going. I have news for you, you are not and at some point, you are going to need rest or your body is going to give out. When God established the Sabbath, it was not just a holy day, he was establishing a principle of rest. It is wise to shut off the grind and allow your mind, body, and soul to rest. If you don’t do this, you will discover the hustle will overtake you and eventually you are going to burn out.
3. Value Limitations
You are a limited commodity. There is only so much you can do, and you simply cannot do it all, so stop trying. Too many people add more and more to their plates, which sucks them into the hustle, and instead of being more productive they end up worse off. We all have limitations on our time and our capacity. The more you recognize this and tune into this, the better off you will be. Let’s learn from Mary and focus on doing less, but doing what is better than trying to do everything.
4. Value Life
“So I hated life, because the work that is done under the sun was grievous to me. All of it is meaningless, a chasing after the wind. I hated all the things I had toiled for under the sun, because I must leave them to the one who comes after me” (Ecclesiastes 2:17-18).
There is nothing wrong with hard work and we should do our best in everything we do. However, to toil endlessly, which is the focus of hustle culture, becomes meaningless. It often comes at great sacrifice and the result of the hard work is someone else will eventually enjoy it. Can you understand why Solomon would say he hated life? The key to life is to work hard but maintain balance so you don’t miss out on the important moments of life. It is okay to hustle, just do it with limitations so you don’t lose sight of what really matters most in life.
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Clarence L. Haynes Jr. is a speaker, Bible teacher, and co-founder of The Bible Study Club. He is the author of The Pursuit of Purpose which will help you understand how God leads you into his will. His most recent book is The Pursuit of Victory: How To Conquer Your Greatest Challenges and Win In Your Christian Life. This book will teach you how to put the pieces together so you can live a victorious Christian life and finally become the man or woman of God that you truly desire to be. Clarence is also committed to helping 10,000 people learn how to study the Bible and has just released his first Bible study course called Bible Study Basics. To learn more about his ministry please visit clarencehaynes.com.