Busyness Is Moral Laziness

Busyness is Moral Laziness

“I don’t have enough time.”

I have said this countless times over the years. I have thought it many times more than I’ve said it. But I have not ever seriously considered that thinking or speaking this way reflected poorly on God. Until the other day on “Ask Pastor John” I heard Prof. Bruce Hindmarsh say,

Busyness is moral laziness [because it is often a statement of our self-importance and our excuse to be inattentive to people]… But God has given us just enough time to do what we need to do moment by moment to respond to him. And his grace is there; it is eternally present. Every moment is a sacrament where time touches eternity and there is exactly enough time to do what God has called us to do.

I had to replay this a number of times. It wasn’t even the main point in Prof. Hindmarsh’s remarks about the importance of Sabbath. But it was the main point for me. Busyness is moral laziness, God has given us just enough time, every moment is a sacrament—these are massively important truths I need to soak in.

“Busyness Is Moral Laziness”

We all know busyness. Everyone is busy. And everyone complains about being busy. Busy, busy, busy. Busy is a buzzword (even phonetically). Most of us have grown fairly comfortable with busyness.

But to call busyness (meaning a frenetic, distracted lifestyle) “moral laziness” suddenly makes us uncomfortable. It means that busyness is not something that merely happens to us. It is something we choose. As objections begin to rise in our minds, it is helpful to remember what Jesus said to busy Martha: “Mary has chosen the good portion” (Luke 10:42). Martha, you have chosen something else.

So why do we choose busyness? Prof. Hindmarsh says that too often we make it a “statement of self-importance.” We use busyness as a way of telling ourselves and, maybe more importantly, others how essential we are. Busyness is a way of posturing our significance. Ouch. I’ve done this.

But a more serious issue is that we choose busyness as a way to avoid having to make harder, sometimes more costly choices (which is why Tony Reinke calls it “lazy busy”). Busyness can easily be an escape. It provides a convenient way to opt-out of wrestling through ambiguity to make a difficult, complex decision that we will be responsible for. It’s much easier to be the victim of circumstances than to be responsible for a mistake. And an overflowing schedule can become a shield protecting us from the unpredictable, inconvenient, time-consuming needs of other people. It’s an effective cover. Who can argue with you if you have too many things to do? Jesus can (Luke 14.15–24″ data-version=”esv” data-purpose=”bible-reference”>Luke 14:15–24).

Now, of course there is such a thing as being legitimately too time-taxed to take on another need. We really are finite, as Jethro reminded Moses in Exodus 18. But that’s what makes busyness a moral and faith issue. Stewarding time is simply hard work. There are helpful tools, but there is no formula. Each person and each calling is unique and it requires our prayerful discernment and the humility of receiving (and seeking) counsel.

“Just Enough Time”

I need to break the very bad habit of saying I don’t have enough time. When I say this, I’m not only blaming my own moral laziness on my circumstances, I’m actually blaming God. I’m essentially saying that God is either insufficient or he’s stingy.

In reflecting on this I’ve become more aware of my lack of faith for God’s provision of time. I tend to have more faith that God will supply for our financial needs than he will for our time needs. For a while I’ve been bothered about not being more directly involved in personal discipleship and evangelistic relationships. But I’ve chalked it up to particular leadership and phase-of-life busyness—too easily, I now believe.

Toward the end of last year it dawned on me that my reticence (in part, selfishness and fear of man are also at work) is significantly due to my lack of faith that God would provide sufficient time if these unpredictable relationships proved more time-consuming than I could manage. I felt the Spirit’s conviction of my lack of faith and prompting to confront it. So since the turn of the year, my wife and I have been giving more freely of our time to these relationships and experiencing God’s provision.

Prof. Hindmarsh is right on when he says, “God has given us just enough time to do what we need to do moment by moment to respond to him. And his grace is there; it is eternally present.”

“Every Moment Is a Sacrament”

“Every moment is a sacrament where time touches eternity and there is exactly enough time to do what God has called us to do.”

What a beautiful and fearful statement. It’s beautiful in that every moment belongs to God (therefore every moment is holy) and he gives each moment to us as a gift. And he gives us enough sacramental moments to provide for our sacred callings, whatever they are. It is fearful in that we are stewards of these gifts and we will be held accountable for their investment (Matthew 25:14–30). We are to handle holy things with great care.

Yet in our trembling we are also to remember that God is “merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness” (Psalm 86:15; Hebrews 13:20–21).

“His Grace Is There”

So let us lay aside the weighty sin of morally lazy busyness (Hebrews 12:1) and resolve to stop using it as a badge of self-importance or as an excuse to avoid what we don’t want to do.

And let us stop dishonoring God by saying that we don’t have enough time. God may, and frequently does, fill our time-plates full, which means that there are many things we must refrain from doing in order to remain faithful to our callings. But God always gives us enough time to do what he calls us to do.

And let us remember that this moment and every moment is a sacred gift from God. God’s sufficient grace is here, right now, where time touches eternity. As we prayerfully trust him, he will give us “just enough time to do what we need to do moment by moment to respond to him.”

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Jon Bloom
Jon Bloom is the Executive Director for Desiring God Ministries

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