Devoured by an Idol

Image result for images of overworked employees

A 31-year-old woman in Japan, a journalist, in fact, recently died… from overwork. She put in 159 hours of overtime in her last month, taking only two days off (

According to the government, 1 in 5 Japanese employees is at risk of death or suicide as a result of overwork. They’ve even got a word for that kind of death: karoshi. The government says employers want their employees to put in excessive overtime “to demonstrate their dedication” to the job. So they’re mulling legislation to limit overtime to 100 hours a month.

World War II hollowed out Japanese culture; and what flowed back in to fill it up was not very nice. Their cities lay in ruins. Their emperor, supposedly a god, had to sign surrender articles aboard a U.S. battleship. They were nuked twice. And so, it seems, they raised up an idol to replace all that was lost. Economic progress and prosperity, literally at any cost: that replaced everything they’d once believed it.

What Japan needed was Jesus Christ, and spiritual healing. This never occurred to General MacArthur and his Occupation government. It certainly never occurred to the Japanese themselves. We all wanted to build Japan back up as quickly as possible, as a bulwark against communism.

That was accomplished. But at what cost?

Now the government is getting nervous because the idol is consuming too many lives, and at an early age, to boot. Japan’s birth rate has dropped almost to the vanishing point. They seem to be really gone on humanoid robots–as replacements, I suppose: very few babies are getting born.

Hundreds of years ago, the Japanese government wiped out Japanese Christians in a savage campaign of genocide.

The ripples of that event have yet to lap against the farthest shore.

9 comments on “Devoured by an Idol

  1. It’s amazing just how hard the Japanese are willing to work. I admire their work ethic, but agree completely that they have to temper this. God actually prescribed a day of rest in the law to Israel, using Himself as the example. Jesus rested at times and this is explained to us in the gospels.

    I am a hyper Type-A personality and love to work to exhaustion, but I’ve learned to force myself to rest. I’ve advised others of my ilk of the same thing. Hard work is a virtue, but it has to be tempered by adequate rest.

    1. Thinking a little farther along, I don’t admire their work ethic at all. It’s gone way beyond being a work ethic. If it were good for people it wouldn’t be killing them.

    2. “I don’t admire their work ethic at all. It’s gone way beyond being a work ethic. If it were good for people it wouldn’t be killing them.”

      I agree, this is beyond work ethic. I do admire their dedication to quality. The Toyota in my driveway attests to that. They believe in quality and have a personal sense of responsibility to do a good job. That’s what I mean when I say that I admire their work ethic.

      That is not to say that I admire anyone working themselves, literally, to death. I believe in working hard and I believe in putting work aside when day is done, and I practice what I preach.

      Today, I am off of work, but dedicated to some serious work around the house. As I write this, I am drenched in perspiration, because it’s nearly 90 degrees and I just came in from two hour’s worth of serious manual labor in the hot sun. I’m cooling off with some seltzer, heading to town for vittles and then hopping right back out to work, once the heat of the day has peaked. I’ll work till sundown and that is how I like it. But when I’m finished, I’ll shower and do some serious relaxing. It’s how I stay healthy.

    3. My work is all here on the computer, and on my legal pad; and there are those who say I do too much of it. But I’ll do as much as I can for as long as I can. And by suppertime I’m usually pretty well beat.

    4. Most of my work is computer based, but I’ve discovered that a good physical workout, via yard work, does wonders for both my body and my mind.

      The network engineering I do is mentally challenging, but it does leave you feeling sort of wrung out. The antidote involves attacking a malicious mesquite tree with a pruning shears. 🙂

  2. There is also a phenomenon that is unique to Japan called hikikomori where young to adolescent aged mostly boys have withdrawn form society and have become recluses, often not leaving their rooms for years or decades. The academic pressures are so rigid and the pressures to succeed are so high that they just opt out of society altogether. The parents often don’t intervene because it brings them shame. So the complete dedication to work not only affects the individual, but also the family. If the parents are always working they are not communicating with their kids, and they are not getting the support they need. I think Japanese culture also places such emphases on honor, that any sort of failure to meet such high expectations brings shame and dishonor. Ultimately though I think your analysis is correct Lee. We all have God shaped holes in our hearts. If people don’t fill it with God, they will just fill it with something else.

  3. The writer of Hebrews admonishes us to enter into God’s rest by resting from out own works.

    In 1949 General MacArthur called for thousands of missionaries to come to Japan and evangelize – few did.

    1. Thanks, I didn’t know that. Gen. MacArthur, it seems, was a wise man who looked into the heart of the matter. Too bad they didn’t listen to him.

Leave a Reply