Gods of This World: Busyness
If you were asked right now whether you would be available to get together for something in a few hours, how would you respond?
How about tomorrow? Or next week? Perhaps even next month?
These days you would most likely answer no, because you are going to be busy.
It seems that everyone is busy all the time. When we think about our schedules we think about all the time we have devoted to work and other projects. Parents account for all the various activities in which their children participate. Events must be planned sufficiently in advance lest the rest of the activities of life encroach upon them.
Life is full of toil, necessary labor, and other important activities (2 Thessalonians 3:10). In many seasons of life we will be quite busy. Yet today “busyness” is being made the goal in and of itself. People willingly fill up their schedules, however consciously, to appear busy. Many boast about how many hours they work or how many projects in which they participate so as to seem more important or valuable. People seem to be busy for the sake of being busy, to fill up their lives with various activities in order to avoid other activities or people. For some such people any period of time in which they are not “busy” is a bit horrifying; at those moments they must come to grips with the challenges, difficulties, and pain they are trying to avoid.
Whereas people do have different amounts of money and talents, we all have the same amount of time: 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. “I’m busy” is really code for “I have other priorities.” Sometimes those other priorities are necessary and important, like work done in service to God, work to provide for one’s family, attention paid to family, friends, and other loved ones (Romans 12:2, Ephesians 5:22-6:4, 1 Timothy 5:8). Nevertheless our priorities often expose our idols! We need to work, but perhaps we are devoting too many hours to work. Parents are to love their children, but perhaps the children are involved in too many activities or devotion to them is taken to extremes. Recent statistics show that people around the world now spend, on average, around a full working day every day consuming various forms of media.
In modern life it does not take too much effort to get busy; there is always more to do, more to see, and more to read. We must learn discretion and wisdom: what are the most important things in life, and do we devote sufficient time to them? Are we “too busy” for God and the work in His Kingdom (Matthew 6:33)? Are we “too busy” for our spouses and children (Ephesians 5:22-6:4)? Are we “too busy” to spend time encouraging and strengthening our fellow Christians (Hebrews 10:24-25)? Are we “too busy” to be a neighbor to our fellow man (Luke 10:25-37)?
In all of these things are we willing to recognize the challenges of “busyness” itself? The adages exist for good reasons: we must make sure we “stop and smell the roses” and recognize that “life happens when we have made other plans.” We know these things are true, but do we act as if helpless and powerless, always subject to the clock and the schedule? If so, then the clock and the schedule have become our gods to which we render obeisance.
“Being busy” and “being productive” or even “living” are very different things. We can be busy all the day but get nothing of substance accomplished; we can always have a full schedule but feel as if life is empty and meaningless. Even the best work like serving God, spending time with family, etc., can be distorted into “busy work” and devoid of meaning and value. Some “busy work” for Jesus may not meaningfully advance His Kingdom or purposes. Spouses can spend a lot of time with each other without deepening their relationship; children may recognize that their parents are always around but do not feel loved or truly taught in the godly way to live.
We can spend our entire lives being so busy with things that we never truly live. Being busy is not the goal of life; actually living, being present, and manifesting the presence of God in Christ is what life is all about (Matthew 5:13-16, 6:33). We do well to strive to never be too busy for God, our family and friends, or our neighbors in need. We must be on guard lest our efforts become “busy work” that distract us from our true purposes. May we diligently consider our priorities and live fully for God!
Ethan R. Longhenry