Busyness: The Stealthy Sin (Part 1 of 3)
We live in a society that promotes busyness and multitasking. We are able to return emails via smart phones at any time. We can swing by a drive thru and eat a meal on the way to a meeting. If our children are not involved in at least three extracurricular activities, we feel we’re stunting their academic, physical and social growth. We’re constantly rushing!
Who of you in the past week, when asked how you’re doing, replied, “I’m so busy!”? I get it. I really do. And this is for me as much as it is for you. Busyness isn’t bad; God calls us to work, service and relationships. He calls us to jobs, ministry, newborns, aging parents and community projects. Certain seasons of life come with a heavier task load.
But busyness is not necessarily about the tasks. It’s about the state of the heart. The goal here is not to teach you better organizational skills or ways to streamline your life by your own effort. The intent is to figure out the root behind our busyness at the heart level and accept the need to rely more on God.
How does God view our busyness?
Before we look at how God views our busyness, let’s first take it from society’s viewpoint. Our world views busy people as noble, hard-working, organized, selfless, reliable and thorough. You’re busy, so that must mean you are actively contributing to the betterment of yourself, your family and society, right?
Luke 10:38-42 describes the story of Mary and Martha:
38 Now as they went on their way, Jesus entered a village. And a woman named Martha welcomed him into her house. 39 And she had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord's feet and listened to his teaching. 40 But Martha was distracted with much serving. And she went up to him and said, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me.” 41 But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, 42 but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.”
Now to be honest, I am a Martha through and through. I love to-do lists. I’ll even retrospectively add tasks I’ve already completed to my list to give myself credit! (Don’t act like you don’t.) From this story, how does it seem Jesus views Martha’s busyness? Does He view it as praise-worthy and admirable like our society does? No. He views Martha as being distracted. Prioritizing task over relationship. Missing the mark. He notes that her tasks have caused her to be “anxious” and “troubled”.
Busyness is a heart issue
So how have we become so busy? If we look deeply, at the root of busyness is a heart issue. In his book, “Crazy Busy”, Kevin DeYoung defines key psychological reasons for busyness. Can you attribute your infinite to-do list to any of these?
- People-pleasing (you take on tasks because you fear others’ disapproval if you don’t)
- Pats on back (you’re such a hero!)
- Proving yourself (you’re capable of accomplishing and juggling so much)
- Pity (you like how people feel sorry for you because you’re so busy)
- Poor planning/procrastinating (you’re constantly rushing to meet deadlines last minute)
- Perfectionism (you dedicate hours to every task ensuring perfection)
- Prestige (you’ll finally “make it”)
- Posting (you spend too much time portraying a perfect life on social media)
- Power/control (you think only you can do it the way it should be done)
- Pride (you feel strong and capable of achieving all those tasks)
- Passion/Gluttony (you need to experience every opportunity, foreign land, food...all the time)
- Poor self-esteem/insecurity (you do things in hopes of being noticed)
Inevitably, our to-do lists become our idol. Accomplishing tasks can become a drug with a subsequent feeling of euphoria. Or it serves as a distractor from the areas in our life that need attention and work. We can’t avoid certain demands of daily life. But we can learn to do less and rest more. In Sessions 2 and 3 we’ll be reviewing how busyness impacts our relationship with God and others and how we can learn to rest in the Lord.