Thinking about this passage from Brian Jay Jones’s lovely biography of George Lucas:

What wasn’t right was that George and [then-wife] Marcia’s thirteen year marriage was quickly imploding, largely because of Lucas’s own neglect. He knew he could be difficult to live with. “It’s been very hard on Marcia, living with somebody who is constantly in agony, uptight and worried, off in never-never land,” Lucas told Rolling Stone. Charles Lippincott, Lucasfilm’s master of marketing, wasn’t entirely surprised…”George would take problems to bed with him,” said Lippincott, “and [Marcia] said this caused a lot of problems.”

But it went deeper even than that; for George Lucas, movies would always be the other woman. As devoted to Marcia as he might be, there was forever one more movie, one more project, demanding the time and attention he couldn’t or wouldn’t give to his wife.

I’ve read a lot of Christian books and heard a lot of Christian speakers talk about strategies for avoiding adultery (the “Billy Graham rule” is a timely example). But I don’t believe I’ve ever read an entire chapter or listened to an entire session by a Christian on strategies for avoiding having an affair with work. Why is that? Why, for people who believe that husbands ought to sacrifice themselves for their wives as Jesus Christ sacrificed himself for his Bride, is the threat of all-consuming careerism not taken more seriously?

Right out of college I spent over a year working in the marketing department of a well-to-do mortgage firm. It wasn’t a particularly good experience, but it was at least eye-opening. I heard the way professional men and women casually talked about how little time they spent at home. If you want to know how what is supposed to sound like complaining can actually be a form of bragging, hearing professionals talk about their time away from home is an education. It was remarkable to me how easily a company that was explicitly “family-oriented” corporate rhetoric could nonetheless cultivate this kind of attitude.

Even worse, it’s scary how easily the veneer of godliness can be applied to this “other woman.” If a man is working long nights and weekends so he can spend time away from his family and with a female coworker, he would be (rightly) rebuked. But if he’s working long nights and weekends just because he derives from his career a peace and identity and thrill that home cannot match, what do we say then?  If you want to get really uncomfortable, go back to that previous sentence and replace the word “career” with the word “ministry.” The temptation for celebrity pastors to put their spouse and family on autopilot must be sore indeed when there are so many book deals and conference invitations to be gained.

It’s sobering to think how many Christians might pat themselves on the back for not being the foolish young man whom Solomon sees going by the house of the forbidden woman, when the only reason why is that they are still at the office with the “other woman.” “The safest road to hell,” said Screwtape, “is the gradual one–the gentle slope, soft underfoot, without sudden turnings, without milestones, without signposts.”

Posted by Samuel James

Samuel D. James is associate acquisitions editor for Crossway Books. Follow him on Twitter @samueld_james.