The Vice of Busyness
APRIL 28, 2022
"How are you doing, Alex?" My response? "Busy."
This was the standard answer I’d give people from 2008-2015 working as a pastor. That’s right. Typical busy pastor. After all, there were sermons to be preached, classes to be taught, pastoral care appointments to attend to, disciples to be made, funds to be raised, buildings to be acquired, the mission to be advanced, and on and on it goes. (Notice things like Sabbath, prayer, and friendship were not included in my very important list of things to be done). Therefore, I was busy.
Sadly, like so many, I would preach passionately a message I wasn’t willing or able to appropriate for myself. “Come to me all who are weary and heavy burdened and I will give you rest.” What beautiful words and an even more beautiful reality for everyone else except me! I was a “leader,” and nobody could really understand what I was going through because, in my mind, I had a unique calling in life that required more of me than anyone else. Besides, I was fine. I didn’t necessarily *feel* weary and heavy burdened. After all, how “weary” can a 28-year-old be? Plus, at that age, a combination of caffeine and adrenaline rushes can get you pretty far while requiring little sleep and downtime. And while 28-year-old Alex without kids didn’t feel as tired as 38-year-old Alex with two kids, the reality is that there’s never been a moment of my life that I didn’t need the rest Jesus offers and provides.
The Bible never speaks favorably of the busyness that I and so many like me are prone to wander into. This doesn’t negate the commands to work hard, be diligent, see tasks through to the completion, and provide well for oneself and family. Don’t hear me saying that slothfulness is the remedy for busyness. The remedy for busyness is holiness. After all, Moses taught us that keeping the Sabbath holy is the meat and potatoes of true piety. Slow down but don’t stop.
But what is it about our busyness? Though we complain about it, I think we actually like it more than we’re willing to let on. This is because the alternative to busyness provides us with real challenges. When we’re still and without a phone in hand to distract us, left alone with our thoughts, we get anxious because we feel like we’re somehow missing out on whatever is happening online.
In addition to missing out, our busyness helps us feel like we matter. When we are able to say that we’re busy, we’re essentially saying that we matter to someone somewhere and what we produce is needed in this world. This is because more often than not, we are what we do.
Yet, the scrambled, maxed-out, hectic life in the name of getting ahead continues to make us lonely and discontent. In fact, mentors of mine used to say to me regularly “Leadership is lonely.” I bought into that mentality, and it cost me dearly. I know what they were trying to say. However, a lonely leader is unhealthy. At what point did loneliness become just “part of the job?” Oh, and a lonely pastor is an oxymoron. The call to lead is not a call to loneliness. It is a call to humility, servitude, community, and vulnerability.
Busyness produces loneliness and loneliness produces pointlessness. Sounds a little like like Ecclesiastes, doesn’t it?
says the Teacher.
Everything is meaningless.”
What do people gain from all their labors
at which they toil under the sun?
Most people who are incredibly busy will tell you in a moment of gut-level-honesty that constantly running 90 miles per hour feels far more like a vice and less like a virtue. In Psalm 127 we read “It is in vain that you rise up early and go late to rest, eating the bread of anxious toil; for he gives to his beloved sleep” (Psalm 127:2). Again, this is not a call to laziness. This is a call to happy holiness in which we are truly present to God, ourselves, our families, friends, and coworkers.