Dangerous Attitudes – When Work-Ethic Goes Bad

Can Work-Ethics be Dangerous?

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Have you ever been guilty of a dangerous attitude? I am the first to admit that I am a detail person. When I am working on a task, project, or assignment you can bet that I will attempt to have the details nailed down. I take the notes, do the research, and prepare, prepare, prepare before I move into action. Unfortunately, I often work with people who are the exact opposite. They move into action or even inaction and nothing seems to faze them; problems or otherwise.

This is not the way that I work and handle things, but many people seem to operate in this manner full time without a care in the world. This rather seemingly lackadaisical work ethic drives me insane for it is not the manner in which I work. Therefore, this can cause me to have a rather dangerous attitude, no matter whether the job is serving the needy or fulfilling a secular obligation.

When I take on a job or role, I embrace it fully and sometimes I seem to get so caught up in what I am doing that I can’t see beyond the details of making sure everything is going just the way they should or if I am honest, just the way I want and expect them to. I craft and put these high expectations upon myself and unfortunately, I often expect everyone else to do the same. And when they don’t, I sometimes develop a rather dangerous attitude that could involve resentment, narrowmindedness, and if I am not careful, unkindness towards the other person as I can become testy when others don’t meet MY expectations. It is difficult sometimes to understand why everyone doesn’t have a good work ethic but maybe our personal definitions are somewhat skewed.

Recognizing Bad Work-Ethics

I can easily identify with Martha in the Bible. I know how she is feeling and why, because it seems like some of us, just bear the load of work for others and I mean that in the most kindness of ways. But Martha learned a lesson that took some time to develop on this first recorded visit of Jesus in her home. It is a lesson for a lot of us to remember. For sometimes we too, get so busy serving the needs of others in the name of Christ, that we forget that it is Christ, that we are serving.

This story found in Luke 10:38 – 42 is Jesus visiting with Martha and her sister, Mary. Martha is a detail person and she very much wanted to please and serve. So, when Jesus visits, she does what she does best. She is the hostess with the mostess, but she gets quickly overwhelmed. It becomes too much for hard-working Martha to accept that while she is running around the house making sure everything is perfect, her sister is sitting down without a care in the world enjoying the guest. It just doesn’t seem fair.

There are standards and expectations when hosting an important guest, and Mary, for all appearances sake just doesn’t seem to “get it.” Why doesn’t Mary’s work ethic match Martha’s? Martha’s frustrations rise to the point she finally involves the guest of honor. She must have thought that Jesus was going to really rebuke Mary and set the “work-ethic” record straight. But instead, Jesus recognized the warning signs of a dangerous attitude. These attitudes are ones that are more dangerous to the individual than to anyone else as they wreak havoc in relationships and holds the potential to destroy a soul.

Unrealistic Expectations

But Martha was distracted by the big dinner she was preparing. She came to Jesus and said, “Lord doesn’t it seem unfair to you that my sister just sits here while I do all the work? Tell her to come and help me.”

Luke 10:40 (NLT)

Martha attempted to set the standards for not only herself, but her sister too, and when things didn’t turn out as she wished, the resentment built. Her narrow-mindedness revealed itself along with a bit of unkindness as she expected Jesus to intervene on her behalf. But Christ saw through it all and in the most gentleness of ways pointed out that her attitude and priorities of details, although well-intentioned, in the larger scheme of things, just weren’t the best.

You see, Martha got bogged down in the details and that is all she could see. She was blind to the fact that her sister was actually being the better hostess as she was giving the honored guest her personal attention. Mary had a different set of priorities and work ethic than Martha, whose service was really more self-serving. She seems to seek a pat on the back for a job well done and perhaps a star for her hosting abilities.

Sometimes we must step back and reset our priorities. Details can hold a degree of importance, but not to the point that it creates the possibility of a potentially dangerous attitude. For when this happens, no matter how Christ- oriented the work may be, our work only becomes self-serving. For it is here that we forget the initial reasons for our actions, and in addition to being self-serving, it limits the power that Jesus provides in our life. Service is important but we must remember who we ultimately serve.

Avoiding the Pitfalls of Dangerous Attitudes

To avoid the syndrome of dangerous attitudes we must remember there is a time for everything and sometimes it is important to step back and take a deep breath thinking through the priorities. For even though details, serving, and following protocol is important, sometimes it is just as important to relax in the quiet, dwell in the silence with God, and listen so His presence is felt. For it is in that place that we demonstrate our recognition of who we truly serve.

Won’t you take the challenge to remember who you ultimately serve? Learn to listen and find the silence to fully worship, as activity and busyness is not always the best method to get things accomplished. Find your convictions in knowing that Christ wants you to spend time with Him in addition to serving His people. Allow your motivation to stem from the fact that people are always more important than details. Surround yourself in the comfort of God’s embrace. He is always patient with us even when we aren’t so patient with ourselves or others.

Are you a Mary or a Martha? Note to self – A balance of both personalities is important to serve properly.

Love in Christ,



We cannot change our past and we cannot change the fact that people act in a certain way. Nor can we change the inevitable. The only thing we can do is play on the one string we have, and that is our attitude.

Charles R. Swindoll

Extra Study

Matthew 6:25-34; Luke 12:11,22; John 11:17 – 45

What are Your Thoughts?

Do you find yourself fostering your high expectations on other’s work ethic? Have you experienced the effects of a dangerous attitude even when serving? Share your thoughts on the problems associated with dangerous attitudes when addressing work ethics.

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