Mark 6:31, “He said to them, “Come away by yourselves to a remote place and rest for a while.” For many people were coming and going, and they did not even have time to eat.”
“We can spot idolatrous busyness because it will eventually cause harm – in our bodies, our families, our churches and our relationship with God” Tim Chester – The Busy Christians Guide to Busyness.
Psalm 127:1-2, “Unless the Lord builds a house, its builders labor over it in vain; unless the Lord watches over a city, the watchman stays alert in vain. 2 In vain you get up early and stay up late, working hard to have enough food—yes, He gives sleep to the one He loves.”
First, let me offer a little disclaimer: The next few posts are not about relaxing. They are not about leisure, or having more fun, though all three – relaxation, leisure and fun, have their place. These posts are not so much about doing too much, but rather, the focus is on being over-busy with activities that are under-important.
I have noticed a trend among Christians lately – especially Christians that are currently raising children. The trend is that Christian families are becoming busier and busier. This is not a profound observation, I realize, but the trend towards more and more busyness is having a profound impact on families. Most of the parents I know are quite tired and frustrated, running on too little sleep, and having little time to reflect and ponder on life. I know that my family is in that boat as well – we are extremely busy, past the point of fatigue, and I can see that it is having subtle and obvious effects on our family that are not very beneficial. Busyness, in and of itself, is not necessarily a dangerous thing. It is quite obvious that Jesus was busy about His Father’s work. The major question here is: what is it that we will be busy doing and being?
Top Seven Dangers of Being Busy With Non-Essentials:
- Being overly busy can rob us of joy in our activities. We have five kids in our family, and most all of them are involved in one or two “extracurricular” activities. Our two eldest girls play travel/competitive soccer, which is quite time consuming. Even though I grew up as a big baseball-football person, I have actually come to enjoy soccer over the past few years, and look forward to watching them play. Except for this weekend. Why not this weekend? The “Birmingham Bash” tournament is this weekend, and both girls (on separate teams) are playing in that tourney, which means 3-4 games per girl. That is a lot of games for the weekend – too many – and thus what might be enjoyable becomes a chore – soccer tournament weekends exhaust our whole family. Busyness is like that – when we do too much, that which we normally enjoy becomes draining drudgery. Doing too much. especially too much of that which is non-essential, doesn’t lead to more enjoyment, but less. One Krispy Kreme doughnut is delightful, and not likely to cause long term problems. Eating a dozen Krispy Kreme doughnuts at once, however, will cause a variety of health issues and stomach pains, and possibly some long term less than desirable issues. Consider: are you too busy to enjoy your activities? That might be a sign that you are overly busy. I know a lot of Christians who are very busy. I know very few busy Christians who are full of joy. Busyness is like that – it seems to quench joy or rob us of joy. Yet, we are called by Jesus to joy, and He promises to fill us with it. If we are not walking in joy, then considering whether or not we are too busy is one of the first diagnostic questions that Christians should ask. “These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.” (Jesus, in John 15:11)
- Being overly busy with non-essentials can rob us of margin – Margin is a term that has only recently been associated with time management, rest, and setting of priorities, and it denotes that extra time and energy needed to deal with calamity or unexpected negative situations. The Bible is quite clear – in this world, we will have tribulation. (John 16:33) We do NOT know when that tribulation will come, and if we are busy to the absolute limit of ourselves, we will have no energy or time to deal with any problems that arise. The physician Richard Swensen has written an excellent book on the dangers of living without margin, and in that work he writes, “The conditions of modern living devour margin…Marginless is being thirty minutes late to the doctor’s office, because you were twenty minutes late getting out of the bank, because you were ten minutes late dropping the kids off at school because the car ran out of gas, and you forgot your wallet…Marginless is being asked to carry a load five pounds heavier than you can lift, while margin is a friend to carry half the burden.” Too many of us handle our lives the way I handle driving to meetings and such. If a place is twenty minutes away, I will leave the house eighteen minutes before, assuming I can make up for the lack by driving faster. Unfortunately, that approach leaves no time for unexpected obstacles, and it decreases my ability to drive well, legally, and safely. Ultimately, driving to appointments that way – and living our lives that way – lacks integrity, and leaves us without margin.
- Being overly busy with non essentials can and will rob us of fruitfulness. It is not a bad thing to be busy with essentials – the main things of life. (For a list of essentials, we should begin with the 1st and 2nd Greatest commandment!) It is a dangerous thing, however, when we are overly busy with things that are not absolutely necessary. It is possible for the worries of life, the pursuit of wealth, and the desires for other things (a very broad category) to crowd out the most important things in life, and prevent us from being fruitful and impacting Christians. Jesus gave a very clear and sobering warning about this in Mark 4:
“Others are sown among thorns; these are the ones who hear the word, 19 but the worries of this age, the seduction of wealth, and the desires for other things enter in and choke the word, and it becomes unfruitful.“ Mark 4:18-19
- Being overly busy with non-essentials will likely rob us of rest, and the Word of God is quite clear that all humans need rest. God rested (Genesis 2:2). Jesus rested (Mark 6:31). Therefore, I conclude, that we need rest. Being overly busy almost always wars against getting enough rest and sleep, and going without rest is both physically dangerous AND spiritually dangerous.
- Being overly busy with non-essentials can delude us into thinking that, “if it’s to be, it’s up to me!” Often we work and schedule our lives as if the outcome of everything is dependent on ourselves. The apostle Paul knew better – he served faithfully, but knew that it was up to God to actually grow things and make an impact. Remember that the extraordinary power of God given to Christians is from God, and not from our own power, as Paul wrote in 2nd Corinthians 4:7. Also remember that God gives the growth, it doesn’t happen by our own human effort:
“What then is Apollos? And what is Paul? They are servants through whom you believed, and each has the role the Lord has given. 6 I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. 7 So then neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth.” 1 Corinthians 3:5-7
- Being overly busy with non-essentials can rob us of the opportunity to have deep fellowship and intimacy with other Christians. I am a pastor, and am guilty of sometimes not properly scheduling my week, or being overly-busy. When that happens, I often find myself up quite late on Saturday nights laboring to finish the message/sermon, which results in me getting less than four hours of sleep. I have noticed about myself that I develop Tunnel Vision Syndrome (T.V.S.) when forced to operate on a sleep deficit – and it is particularly acute when I get less than four hours of sleep. When in the throes of T.V.S., I can function (barely), but I don’t pay close attention to the people around me. I can interact with people, but only as a hollow person – my passion to care about what they are going through is severely limited. My ability to interact with guests and people I don’t know very well is curtailed. When I am forced to get by on low sleep, it seems like I walk around in a fog – missing important details, and lacking any sort of drive to go deeper in relationship with dear brothers and sisters in Christ. I’ll bet that you are similar – you enter into survival mode and experience T.V.S. when you don’t get enough sleep, right? Given that the second most important commandment is to love our neighbors as ourselves, anything that hinders that kind of love – like lack of sleep and overbusyness, is a deadly danger!
- Finally, and most importantly, being overly busy with non-essentials can and will hinder Intimacy with God. We serve a Jesus who gave this invitation, “Come unto me, and I will give you rest.” Have you ever wondered what the difference between Christianity and all other religions is? Every other religion is concerned with telling people how to find their way to God – what they must do to please God. Christianity is not like that – it is not WORK based. The good news/Gospel of Jesus is that He doesn’t tell us what WE have to do to be saved – He DID what needed to be done to provide salvation by dying on the cross in our place. Thus Christianity is not based on our works, but on the WORK of Jesus, who paid it all. As noted above, Jesus placed a tremendous emphasis on love and relationships: First and foremost our relationship with God, and secondly our relationships with each other. The greatest commodity in the Kingdom of God is not WORK but LOVE. There is no better story to illustrate this (while showing the dangers of being overly busy) than the story of Jesus’ dear friends Mary and Martha:
“While they were traveling, He entered a village, and a woman named Martha welcomed Him into her home. 39 She had a sister named Mary, who also sat at the Lord’s feet and was listening to what He said. 40 But Martha was distracted by her many tasks, and she came up and asked, “Lord, don’t You care that my sister has left me to serve alone? So tell her to give me a hand.” 41 The Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and upset about many things, 42 but one thing is necessary. Mary has made the right choice, and it will not be taken away from her.”
Think about this situation: Jesus and His disciples (12 messy guys) and possibly even others, were in the (likely) small house of Martha and Mary of Bethany. Jewish hospitality rules demanded that the hosts of the home (Martha, Mary and Lazarus) should see to the needs of the guests, and take care of them. Martha was doing exactly what her culture demanded of her. Moreover, she was serving, and even ministering! The Greek word that the Bible uses to describe what Martha was doing is the Greek word “διακονίαν” which means “to minister” or “to serve.” It is the same word that we get the word deacon from, and, according to Jesus, serving is the key to greatness! Martha was BUSY DOING GOOD THINGS! However, that busyness was hindering her ability to intimately engage with Jesus. While Jesus didn’t exactly rebuke Martha for her choice to be busy, He very clearly praised Mary for her choice to sit at His feet, calling it the RIGHT decision, and seeming to imply that Mary’s choice would have eternal fruits and benefits.
Anna Moss does an excellent job of diagnosing Martha’s issue here, “Martha is distracted. She’s so distracted that she’s forgotten that the dinner is all about Jesus. She’s trying to serve Jesus, but her serving has stopped her even seeing him. It’s stopped her relating to him. It’s stopped her listening to him. He’s right there in her living room, and she’s not seeing him. She’s not hearing him. Instead of being amazed that Jesus, the holy one of God, has come into her home to share a meal with her, she’s worried and distracted by sandwiches and dip.” Source (A great read on busyness!)
We’re like that, aren’t we? I know I am. I can be too busy – even with GREAT things – to KNOW Jesus. To listen to Him and His Words. THIS is the primary and deadliest danger of being too busy. Being overly busy with ANYTHING can often rob us of a Mary of Bethany type approach to life. We’re not sure about what exactly Mary of Bethany accomplished with her life, but she obviously got the attention of Jesus – multiple times – because she prioritized loving Him and knowing Him. May the schedule of our lives, and the way we spend our minutes, show that we have the same priority.