Karoshi (Psalms 127:2)

It was initially met with skepticism and even mockery. Young Japanese men were dying of heart attacks and strokes. Many of them were before thirty years of age and had no prior health conditions. Upon further investigation, doctors noted a common theme amongst all of these deaths. All worked excessively long work weeks, exceeding the forty hour work week by 50% or greater. By 1987, the Japanese government officially adopted new workforce rules to address this growing health crisis.


This Japanese word is literally translated as death by overworking. Since the initial reports from Japan in the seventies and eighties, other Asian countries have documented their own versions with terms ranging from guolaosi (Chinese) and gwarosa (South Korea). The medical community in many of these countries has accepted this as a true condition and have taken steps to mitigate the circumstances leading to this tragic condition. 

It is useless for you to work so hard from early morning until late at night, anxiously working for food to eat; for God gives rest to his loved ones.

Psalms 127:2 (NLT)

Ironically, many of the risk factors that lead to this condition, I also share. When I first began my medical career in private practice, I routinely worked eleven to twelve hour workdays. Without giving it a formal name, I was on the path to karoshi. I certainly do not shy away from hard work but there is a subtle danger when I convince myself that my work is too valuable and that only I can perform it. It is a vainglorious statement and can foment a slippery slope that exalts my efforts at the expense of God’s guidance. God knows me far better than I know myself and warns me in the preceding verse of the same Psalms.

Unless the LORD builds a house, the work of the builders is wasted. Unless the LORD protects a city, guarding it with sentries will do no good.

Psalms 127:1 (NLT)

I spent so much of my life working so hard, building my house, my city, and my kingdom. I should not be asking myself, “Why am I working so hard?” Instead, I should always be asking, “Why am I not spending more time resting in God?” 

Why indeed?

Love and trust the Lord; seek His will in your life.

One thought on “Karoshi (Psalms 127:2)

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