As you begin reading this, you likely are doing what most people do with an article: You are looking for the headings, bullet points, and bolded words. Why? Because — if we’re honest — we are far too busy and believe we don’t have time to read
The average American worker engages in more than 40 hours of work each week outside the home. What’s more, we are getting less sleep than our grandparents — about two hours less each day. And, if you have kids, you have even more reasons to be busy.
The Bible records a well-known story about busyness. It reminds us that this problem is an age-old one — but one that we can confront and control to the glory of God and the betterment of our families, churches and individual lives.
Now as they went on their way, Jesus entered a village. And a woman named Martha welcomed him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to his teaching. 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.” But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.” (Luke 10:38-42)
This account isn’t just detailing for us two personality types (Martha – “type-A” and Mary – “happy-go-lucky”). Clearly, God doesn’t favor Mary’s personality. He created all sorts of personalities to advance His kingdom. Neither is the point of this story to “just be with Jesus” and hang out with Him.
So, what is Jesus saying? In short, He’s saying that those who believe themselves to be competent for the task have the hardest time following His will for their lives. Let’s look at two aspects of this and then apply it, practically.
First, we have grown up believing that busyness equals successful faithfulness. “The early bird gets the word,” we are told. And, “no time to waste!” We like to be busy because that makes us feel special and important. We say to God, “Whew, Lord, I am tired! Look at me! I am burned out … for You!”
Second, notice that Martha is driven by fear — “you are anxious” (v. 41). We all feel the pressure: “If I don’t do this right, what will people think of me? Well, we can’t have anyone over for dinner because our house is a mess! How can we serve Christ and share Jesus if our kids’ rooms aren’t picked up and there is toothpaste in the sink!”
Truthfully, though, we can’t please everyone, we need to deny our pride of perfectionism, and we don’t have anything to prove.
What does this look like, practically?
- Sleep like someone whose God is actually alive. There’s so much wrong in the world. How do I sleep at night? Sleep well in the knowledge that all your sins are forgiven and God has declared you to be righteous in Christ. Sleep well because God loves you as much as He loves Jesus. Sleep well because God is in control. It is not your jam-packed schedule or the idol of busyness that shows you are godly. God is glorified when we actually sleep!
- Stop worrying about tomorrow. Isn’t this what Jesus warned about in Matthew 6:34? After all, do you really believe in the free, total sovereignty of God? Our worry about tomorrow ruins today. We don’t have enough knowledge to fix tomorrow, but God does — cast your cares on Him. Jesus will be there tomorrow (and today … and forever), sufficient for everything you need!
- Give yourself some schedule-breathing room! Jesus slept while a storm raged (Mark 4:38) and withdrew by Himself to pray (Luke 5:16). Even the brash and bold Peter took a nap and rested from work (Acts 10)! When your smartphone calendar is packed to the max, you can’t even deal with the very things God calls you to do on a regular basis (evangelize, pray, etc.).
- Take a Sabbath rest. Yes, Jesus is our Sabbath rest (Hebrews 3:7-4:11). But, since the moral law continues (the Ten Commandments), we are commanded to take a break and rest. If the Jews, who were farmers and herders by trade, could rest — even if it grated against all they knew – then we can do it, too. They did and their crops produced fruit. And our souls will produce spiritual fruit when we take time to rest and recoup spiritually before our triune God — one day a week! The Sabbath teachings in the Bible show us that God wants us to be unproductive at times. Rejuvenated. Refreshed.
The less time I spend communing with Jesus, the quicker I get irritated with people. Go figure! The more quality time I spend with Jesus, the less likely I am to be fragile or rigid, on any given day.
And let’s remember — the real problem with our busyness is that it keeps us from true fellowship with our loving Lord. Jesus told Mary that she chose the “good thing.” And so should we!