When Life Becomes Nothing but Work, What’s Left?

Written by Kevin Miller

Profile on: Paul E. Martin, former senior partner in the law firm Chamberlain, Hrdlicka, White, Williams and Martin.

faith_martinIt’s one thing to have a good work ethic. It’s another thing to be a workaholic. Unfortunately, in many cases, the former can lead to the latter. This is certainly true in the case of Paul E. Martin, former senior partner in the law firm Chamberlain, Hrdlicka, White, Williams and Martin.

Matter of survival

Growing up on a farm in depression-era Kansas, Paul and his brother got up every morning at four o’clock and worked until school started. When school was over, they’d go back to work again until nightfall. During the summers, they simply worked every waking hour – growing vegetables, raising chickens, selling products door-to-door – anything to make a buck. Back then it was a matter of survival.

This strong work ethic stood Paul in good stead when it came to getting through college, becoming a navy pilot and later, establishing himself as a top tax lawyer. However, work eventually assumed such a central role in Paul’s life that he simply had to admit it was no longer a matter of survival. It was an obsession. And if he didn’t cut back soon, he would lose everything for which he had been striving.

Motivated by shame

Like a lot of people raised during the depression, Paul’s obsession with work was motivated in part by shame.

“I was ashamed of my family, because a lot of my friends had a lot more than we did,” says Paul. “I thought if I could work hard and go to college, I could make a lot of money and everything would be much better than it was growing up.”

Paul’s quest for the good life led him to Harvard Law School where he graduated near the top of his class. Recognizing his competition at work would be even more fierce than at school, Paul fell back on what he knew best: hard work. While this strategy proved beneficial to his career, his home life took a beating. And no wonder:

I’d get to work at 8:30 in the morning and work until 11:00 at night, get home at 11:30, eat supper, go to bed at midnight, and then back at 8:30 the next morning six days a week. I really spent no time at all with my family.”

This went on for ten years. Paul did achieve partnership in the firm, but he still didn’t slow down. Remarkably, his marriage survived this period even though many other marriages in the firm did not. But the strain had to take its toll eventually. And it did, manifesting itself in his teenage daughter. When a counselor advised Paul he simply had to spend more time with her, he started returning home at 6:00 each evening. This really helped him get back in touch with his wife and children.

Rearranging my life

A one-year Bible Paul received as a gift led to another work-related change. He had been a Christian since childhood, but he’d never thought seriously about how his faith should affect his life.

When I started reading the Bible and seeing what God was telling me, I realized I had my priorities all wrong. I needed to put God first, my family second and my job third. So I started rearranging my life.”

Reading the Bible also changed the way Paul did business. He began treating his clients with respect and humility instead of lashing out at them or cutting corners on the truth. The results were dramatic.

My production went way up after that,” Paul says. “I worked way fewer hours, but I made a lot more money. It really impressed me how God responded to this change in my life.”

Even though he’s still making more money than ever, Paul’s motivation for earning money has changed completely.

I used to think money could buy happiness. Not true. Today, I think if I can earn more money, I can give more money away, and we love to do that. It’s one of our greatest joys. We’re probably giving more money away each year than we spend on ourselves.”

Paul’s perspective on the value of hard work has also changed.

I’m only working four days a week. Even so, I still finish in the top four or five of the lawyers in my law firm in terms of the amount of income I bring into the firm. But it’s just God’s work, not my doing. I attribute it all to God.”

Has your desire for success turned into an obsession? Would you like to be free? Why not ask Jesus for help? If you don’t know Jesus, we encourage you to pray the following:

Lord Jesus, I want to know You personally. Thank You for dying on the cross for my sins. I open the door of my life and receive You as my Savior and Lord. Thank You for forgiving my sins and giving me eternal life. Take control of my life. Make me be the person You want me to be.

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