Personal Growth

How Busy Should I Be?

by Kyle Grant

busy street at night with blurred headlights from cars

You have so much to do today. You had so much to do yesterday. You will have so much to do tomorrow. In fact, now that you think about it, you’ve remembered that thing you didn’t do yesterday that you will have to try to do today, or maybe tomorrow.

Responsible people are busy. People with families are busy. Families who are involved in church and the lives of others are busy. But just how busy should we be? If you haven’t wrestled with this question, you should. I hope here to provide some healthy conditioning as we all wrestle with this question.

First, you should be busy.

I don’t intend to argue against busyness. I intend to argue against unhealthy busyness. So, you should be busy. Adam and Eve were busy in the garden. Abraham was a successful farmer and businessman. Moses was a leader, judge, priest, and navigator. Samuel made circuits around Israel as a traveling prophet, priest, and judge. Solomon was a king, poet, agriculturalist, and considering his family dynamic, he had plenty of family to care for!

Jesus was busy. He was busy primarily spending time with his disciples and preaching. Beyond his teaching, though, the gospels regularly describe him as healing every sick person in a town.

Paul writes in Romans 12:11 “Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord.” That word “slothful” means laziness, idleness, or reluctance in service. In context, Paul is urging believers to live out the gospel with a fully sacrificial spirit. So obviously we can’t live out the gospel as sacrifices for Christ if we are idle in service, indifferent in spirit, and serving ourselves with our schedule. Gospel affected people are gospel-active people! God has provided contexts for primary gospel-business. Be busy with your neighbors. Be busy in your community. Be busiest at home and at church.

But, you shouldn’t be too busy.

Here I want to narrow “too busy” to two primary applications, though there are more. Are you too busy to rest? And are you too busy to reflect?

As you should be busy, so you should rest.

God patterns this from the beginning (Gen. 2:1–3). I find today that most people are much more comfortable with the concept of busyness than they are with rest. We feel guilty resting because there’s something more important to do. Rest may even be viewed as laziness by some. This is perhaps nowhere more on display than when a pastor goes on vacation! Rest is deeply Biblical.

Not only is it founded by God it is modeled by Jesus. Jesus often went away privately in order to rest for greater ministry investment. Jesus didn’t rest because he didn’t want to serve. He rested because he did want to serve. If intentional rest is lacking from our routine we are not only living unhealthy lives but ungodly lives.

Observations from Martha

Here we pick again on poor Martha from Luke 10:38–42. I want to note a few things from the text.

  • It was actually her devotion to her service that made her unspiritual. The overflow of her frustration came from her belief in busyness detached from godliness (v. 40).
  • Her busyness made her a busybody. That is what she was doing caused resentfulness in what others were doing, or not doing. So she made her business everyone else’s and theirs’ hers (v. 40). Busyness detached from godliness makes busybodies.
  • Her unspiritual service revealed deeper heart concerns. Jesus points to her anger and anxiety in “many things,” not just the issue at hand. Burying the state of a sinful heart with spiritual service isn’t sincere service. We need Jesus to call us on this.
  • Finally, she was busy doing good work, but not the best work (Vv. 41). She was not able to participate in what Jesus says should be her greatest concern, learning and loving Christ. Mary was devoted to Christ in humility and Martha to herself in activity. How often do we attempt to compensate for a lack of authentic humility with good activity? Goodness in service doesn’t hide from Christ the badness in our spirit.

If our lives are so speedy that what slows is our reflection on God and conversation with Christ then our schedules reflect the sin of our hearts somewhere. If you’re fitting time in the Word and prayer into your life rather than altering your life around the Bible and prayer then you are clearly troubled by too many of the wrong things. J.I. Packer summarizes this concept this way, “Live slowly enough to think deeply about God.” If you’re too busy to regularly rest in God and reflect upon God, you’re too busy.

Suggestion and Questions

In conclusion, allow me to offer some suggestions and ask some diagnostic questions.

Wade in tides not swamps.

Tides go and come. Swamps are always thick and deep. Wading in a swamp gives no rest and requires constant movement. Tides require wading and allow for pausing. Another way to say this is to live in seasons. There will be busy seasons and there will be slow seasons. Embrace and maximize both. Activity engages your rest and your rest equips your activity. Again, this is the model of Christ.

Does your family resent your schedule?

If your spouse or kids or teens are pressed too often, show compassion. If your schedule is a source of conflict rather than life, open up your ears and don’t dig in your heels.

Schedule your life with a vertical vision.

As you plan, consider the glory of God and the discipleship potential of an event. Every task penciled in is an opportunity for praise. A vertical vision keeps both our motives and our tasks in check.

Are you comfortable saying no?

If you live your life believing a request from you is an obligation for you, or if you feel like saying no to an event or task is letting people down, you may be scheduling your life for yourself rather than for others. We only have so much time in this life. We only have so many years with our kids. Integral to redeeming the time we have is protecting it from lesser things and lesser tasks.

You should be busy, but not too busy. And if you are too busy, look to Christ. Take his yoke, that you may do his work in his way, and he will give you rest in your spirit. The balance of Christ is the remedy for an imbalanced agenda.

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