Doing much of nothing

‘We hear that some among you are idle and disruptive. They are not busy; they are busybodies.’

-2 Thessalonians 3:11

All around us, people are consumed by busyness. I feel as though every conversation I have goes something like this… “Hi, how are you doing?” “I’m good thanks, just so busy” or “I’m sorry I haven’t been around much, I’ve just been so busy.” I am most guilty of using this narrative which is why my husband and I challenged ourselves at the beginning of this year to not allow busy to be an excuse anymore. I know I’ve taken the above scripture slightly out of context, but I was so struck by reading about the people who are not busy, just busybodies. The rest of the scripture goes on to say, “Such people we command and urge in the Lord Jesus Christ to settle down and earn the food they eat. And as for you, brothers and sisters, never tire of doing what is good.” It got me thinking…

Is my “busyness” just a mask for idleness and disruption?

The other day, while dropping my son off at playgroup, I noticed two men working on a pothole a little further down the road. I walked around my car, unstrapped my son, walked him in to the playgroup, put his lunch in the fridge and his bag in his locker, I sat with him awhile to get him settled, walked back to my car, put on my seatbelt, got the car started and drove up to these guys who were still there. Because they were working in the middle of my lane, I had to wait in front of them for the oncoming traffic to pass so that I could go. These guys looked so busy, so I began to watch what they were doing. Instead of fixing the pothole, as I had assumed the were doing, they were arguing over how to mark the pothole with spray paint. Despite how busy they looked, in all that time they had accomplished nothing except for successfully disrupting traffic. How often does our “busyness” result in nothing? How much time do I waste busy doing nothing? How often do we stand in the way of other people while we are busy being idle? How much of my busyness can actually be regarded as idleness and disruption by others?

Are we truly busy, or just busybodies?

According to the Oxford Dictionary, being busy means to be occupied with or concentrating on a particular activity or object of attention, whereas a busybody is defined as a meddling or prying person. Nobody likes a busybody; if you’re spending all your time with your nose in everyone else’s business, when are you going to have time to work on the tasks assigned to you. Personally, I spend way too much time worrying about what other people are doing, and their opinion of what I do, instead of focusing on my tasks at hand. 

What are we busy with?

Let’s go back to the above definition of being busy- to be occupied with or concentrating on a particular activity. What activities keep you occupied? What keeps your concentration? Do you spend hours flicking from one social media app to another? I do… Oh, how many hours I have lost to Facebook and the likes. Do you spend your free time binging on series? I do. Do you spend your time worrying about things you can’t change? I do. The list goes on… When I sat down to think of all the many things “keeping me busy”, I couldn’t help but realize how few of them had any eternal value. I am challenged to concentrate on spending my time wisely and to keep myself more occupied by things that matter… relationships, my family, my walk with God, my community, etc.

What does it mean to “settle down” in Jesus?

The root word used for this term, is the word hésuchios, which means “quiet, tranquil, peaceful”. I don’t know about you, but those words seem to describe the complete opposite of the world we live in. We go from meeting to meeting, deadline to deadline, driven to succeed; fighting for survival in a dog-eat-dog world. We have forgotten how to rest. It is so important to take time to rest amidst the chaos. More and more people that I know are battling with stress, anxiety, depression…. Feeling overwhelmed by the fast, demanding pace of the world around them. We need to make time for ourselves, time to breathe, time to recharge. We need to learn to find peace and quiet, to spend time with the Good Shepherd who makes us lie down in green pastures, who leads us beside quiet waters, who refreshes our souls. (Psalm 23:2-3a)

Do I earn the food I eat?

There is the obvious implication here that we need to work hard to provide food, a home, etc. for ourselves and our families… This is important, but there’s another aspect to this that I feel is also of extreme importance. Often, when life gets “too busy”, we let our time with God slip; we spend less time reading the bible, praying, worshipping, and even just sitting quietly in His presence. We then try to make up for this by listening to podcasts, reading articles, paying extra attention at church on Sunday-feeding off of other’s walks with God. As much as these things are good, they can’t replace our personal walk with God. Jesus is the bread of life, we need to be filling our tanks directly from him. We’re not baby birds who need to eat food regurgitated from our mothers… No, we eat our own food. In the same way, we need to walk personally with Jesus, no matter how busy life gets.

How much good am I doing?

The Message version of Colossians 3:22-25 says “do what you’re told by your earthly masters. And don’t just do the minimum that will get you by. Do your best. Work from the heart for your real Master, for God, confident that you’ll get paid in full when you come into your inheritance. Keep in mind always that the ultimate Master you’re serving is Christ. The sullen servant who does shoddy work will be held responsible. Being a follower of Jesus doesn’t cover up bad work.” It’s so easy to want to take shortcuts, to do as little as the idle people around you, especially when life is so busy. That won’t get us anywhere… we’re called to live virtuously, keeping a high standard, representing Jesus in all that we do.

Busy does not have to be a bad thing. In Ecclesiastes 3, Solomon shares his wisdom with us; he says, “I have seen the business that God has given to the children of man to be busy with. He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also, he has put eternity into man’s heart, yet so that he cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end. I perceived that there is nothing better for them than to be joyful and to do good as long as they live; also that everyone should eat and drink and take pleasure in all his toil—this is God’s gift to man.” (Verses 10-13)

Let us keep away from the ways of busybodies and instead choose to be busy with things that matter. May we learn to be joyful and to do good, may we eat our portion of the Bread of Life and drink of the streams of Living Water and may we be occupied with and concentrate on the business that God has given us, bringing glory to Him in all we do for as long as we live.

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