I read a book recently, which made the claim that being busy can be a common form of laziness. At first, this claim appears contradictory. How can someone who’s truly active and busy with work be considered lazy?
If laziness is characterized by being slow to take action, to put off responsibilities and procrastinate, then being busy with relatively unimportant activities becomes a means of distraction, and an ally of laziness. It is deceptive to be busy with inconsequential work because the state of activity allows us to falsely justify putting off other work that is more important. By crowding a schedule with activities and taking on unnecessary responsibilities, we might be putting off the most important use of our time – to develop fruits of righteousness and grow in our spiritual understanding of the Truth.
There may always be dishes to wash, laundry to do, other regular chores and jobs that warrant our attention, but that doesn’t mean that we need to be active in doing those things with every waking moment. We must be certain to set aside time to dedicate to more weighty, spiritual matters. In Luke 10:38-42 we read about when Jesus was visiting Mary and Martha. Martha is described as being “distracted with much serving.” Jesus admonished her to not be worried about those matters at that time, but to take time to learn about the more important things that He was discussing with her sister, Mary. This is a perfect example of laziness in the form of being busy. There is a time and a place for being busy with serving, but it should not take priority over our spiritual development.
Unfortunately, conditions have not improved since Martha’s time to reduce the amount of work that needs to be done in this day and age. One might think that advancements in technology would make life easier so that we can live a life that’s entirely dedicated to fruitful, personal development. Nothing could be further from the truth; we have no shortage of distractions to keep us busy today. The world has very much to offer in the way of being busy with new, important things that could turn our attention away from spiritual development.
There are consequences to falling into this trap, however. The parable of the sower describes how individuals, like you and I, receive the Word of God in the context of different circumstances. One of the conditions that Jesus describes is about thorny ground. In Matthew 13:22 He provides the interpretation, “Now he who received seed among the thorns is he who hears the word, and the cares of this world and the deceitfulness of riches choke the word, and he becomes unfruitful.” The consequence of staying busy with worldly activity is to become unfruitful spiritually. When we allow the cares of the world to distract us and keep us busy, we put our ability to bear spiritual fruit at risk.
If we are serious about our calling to be children in the Family of God, we cannot be lazy. That means that activities that keep us busy, preventing us from bearing fruit, need to find their proper place. What is more important, and perhaps more challenging, is our need to focus on working in those areas of our life that we might be putting off. Do we have difficult problems that need to be overcome? Is it hard to figure out what step to take first? For many of us, the answer to these questions is “Yes”. When we encounter obstacles that are difficult to work on, we need to fight the urge to be busy with something that feels productive, and work on that which will bear fruit instead.
It is the difficult work that we are called to do. In Hosea 10:12 we read, “Sow for yourselves righteousness; Reap in mercy; Break up your fallow ground, For it is time to seek the LORD, Till He comes and rains righteousness on you.” Those places in our lives that do not receive attention – the untilled, fallow ground – are what need to be worked on. By being busy in the areas in our lives that might take extra effort, we find new ways to bear even more spiritual fruit and overcome the laziness of busy-ness.