Christians, Protect Each Other from Busyness

All of us have complained at one time or another about being too busy. Time for spiritual, emotional, and physical health keeps getting shoved off to “one day.”

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But busyness leads to burnout and Christ came so that we might have life and have it abundantly (Jn. 10:10).  If, therefore, Christians struggle with busyness, then ought not brothers and sisters in Christ protect one another from this life-draining lifestyle?

Here are six ways Christians can protect each other from busyness.

1. Don’t Add to the Busyness 

Most of us don’t intend to make anyone’s life harder but sometimes we carelessly chuck more chores onto an already heavy load.  We make statements like “Can you e-mail me that document?” or “Would you mind setting up that meeting?” or “Can you look over this for me?”  It’s the countless tiny tasks that mount up to make our lives seem unbearable.  In humility let’s count each other more significant than ourselves (Phil. 2:3) and find creative solutions that minimize the burden on others.

2. Protect People Who Can’t Say “No”

I’ve found it immensely helpful when a friend sees me about to accept a new responsibility and says, “You can’t take that on right now.”  A straightforward directive against saying “yes” to additional duties works wonders with a person who can’t say “no”.

3. Respect Boundaries

The most effective people are the ones who guard their time carefully.  They don’t work past a certain time.  They don’t take calls in the evening.  They don’t meet with every person who makes a request.  Sometimes people like this are just selfish or anti-social.  More often, however, they are models of discipline we should emulate.  At the very least, if a brother or sister makes boundaries then we should endeavor to respect them and not ask favors that require them to bend those boundaries without good reason.

4. Ask about Priorities 

In principle we should be spending most of our time on our highest priorities.  In practice, many of us spend our time doing whatever happens to be in front of us.  Perpetually doing whatever is at hand without regard to our priorities results in heavy doses of hectic activity with nothing to show for it.  We end up exhausted and still haven’t made progress in the areas of life that are most important to us.  So Christians can help guard one another from busyness by asking, “What are your priorities?” And then ask the follow up question, “Are you spending the time you need in order to move forward in those areas?”

5. Ask about Idols

Busyness if often the presenting symptom of  a much deeper problem.  The busiest people are usually striving to satisfy idols of achievement or approval.  I know because I’m one of those people.  Our hearts say, “If I can just accomplish this goal or this task then I’ll be recognized.  Then I’ll be accepted.  Then I’ll be happy.”   But we’re never “done”, we never “finish”.  We keep working and working but we fail to achieve that deep satisfaction for which we toil.   Christians can help guard each other from busyness by asking the question, “Why are you working so hard?”  The answer to this question may reveal the underlying spiritual cause for our constant activity.

6. Be the Change

The best way to help your Christian brother or sister guard against busyness is to model it in your own life.  When we display lives that have healthy rhythms of work and rest, we ignite a longing in others to do the same.  When I was dating my wife, who was a 5th grade teacher at the time, she told me that she didn’t prepare lesson plans or grade any papers on Sunday.  I, too, was a teacher and couldn’t fathom a Sunday that wasn’t spent in frantic preparation for the week ahead.  And I was a Christian!  But her example motivated me to rearrange my time so that I’d have a full day of worship and recovery.  In the same way, our lives of work and rejuvenation provide tangible models for others to imitate.

Christ Breaks the Bonds of Busyness

Busyness is a heart issue.  While work is a creational blessing (Gen. 1:28), our sin often makes work into a draining, stressful, endless endeavor.  And our culture feeds this sin.  It’s considered a mark of pride to be “busier than thou.”

But Jesus’ example shows that Christians are to be about their Father’s business and not mere busyness (Jn. 15:10).  Christ’s death on the cross reminds believers that the most important work in the universe has been accomplished.  The works of righteousness necessary for salvation have all been carried out on the cross.  Because of Jesus’ work we can rest from ours.

So now, in Christ, all activity is restored to its rightful place as a blessing.  Through our occupations and other responsibilities we can glorify God and exercise holy dominion over the earth.  But the pull of perpetual motion is strong, and we can’t resist such temptations alone.  So, Christians, let’s protect each other from busyness.

15 thoughts on “Christians, Protect Each Other from Busyness

  1. Thanks for the article. It is helpful, but I was wondering if there could be some type of “part 2” to discuss the difference between a sinful busyness and a legitimate busyness. Jesus was on the move consistently. He took times of rest, but he was “busy.” Paul was beaten, shipwrecked, jailed, and nothing seemed to stop him. Going to church history,we see examples of zealous busyness with Luther and Calvin – not stopping even though they were sick. Then we look around at current, more well known, examples like Piper, DeYoung, Sproul, etc, and I can’t imagine their schedules: speaking engagements, sermons for Sunday, books to write, books to read, Scripture study, prayer.

    I understand the sin if busyness that can keep us distracted, but I am simply wondering if there’s a clear way to communicate a dividing line between the sinful and the godly zeal.

    1. Your examples are of people pursuing their calling. The busy that is not of God is the busy induced by demands other than our calling. It’s sneaky and it will rob us of the time and energy to follow God’s path for us. Does that help?

      1. Great distinction, Anne-Marie. Jesus was always busy about His Father’s business. Too often we pursue activities that aren’t motivated by Gospel intentions.

    2. Timothy,

      Really great question. You’re right, there’s a type of busyness that can be godly or sinful.

      I’ve noticed in my own life that sinful busyness is marked by: lots of activity but no real productivity, spiritual, emotional, and physical emptiness, and a dearth of time for the pursuit of God (Bible reading, hospitality, fellowship, etc.). In contrast, times of godly busyness in my life have been marked by: progress on priorities, satisfaction from a good day’s work, a sense of peace that I’ve been laboring in the center of God’s will, and carefree periods of rest (i.e. not feeling guilty that I’m not doing something else at the moment).

      Busyness is ultimately a heart issue. Many times our constant activity stems from some sort of idolatry. Busyness can sometimes indicate pride, a lack of self-control, or people-pleasing. Only you and those who know you best, guided by the Holy Spirit, can discern the motivation behind the work you do. So staying rooted in the Word and having close relationships with other Christians help safeguard us from sinful busyness.

      Hope that helps. Thanks for reading!

  2. We can try to emulate Jesus, but we should not always use other men of God as our examples. Plenty of men in the past (think John Wesley) and others, more modern were busy about the Lord;s business to the detriment of their families. Just because a great man of God accomplished much does not mean he has a good family life. How many great theologians of the past lost their children to the world and had terrible marriages. Guard your family against your busyness.

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