The Gluttony of Time
Busyness is evidence of unhealthy appetites.

A paradox has emerged in this new millennium: people have enhanced quality of life, but at the same time they are adding to their stress levels by taking on more than they have resources to handle. It's as though their eyes were bigger than their stomachs.

- David Allen, Getting Things Done

It's more than likely that you've heard a message, read a book, or done some thinking about "busyness" in the last year or two. Slightly less likely, but still entirely possible, is that you've heard a message, read a book, or done some thinking on "gluttony" during the same time.

It's highly unlikely that the two were connected. But maybe they should have been.

Why do we say yes to so much? Is it because we are guilt-ridden, co-dependent angst monkeys who lack the willpower to say no? No. We say no to a million things a day. Usually to things that are good for us, but still...when we want to, we know how to say no just fine, thank you.

Is it because we have a drive towards self justification that works itself out in our work and an ever-increasing load of commitments through which we seek to earn the favor of others and God? In part, yes...

But maybe it also has something to do with our appetites.

You know, our appetites for recognition and "importance." To be liked, appreciated, admired. Even our appetite to "get things done." And honestly, there's nothing inherently wrong with that. But like all things in this broken world, left unchecked by the Spirit and un-submitted to God, our appetite to be liked and our desire to achieve will run out of control.

I've been thinking about busyness as though it is a problem to be managed - increase my productivity and I could, of course, accept and keep more commitments, more on my plate... more to feed my ego.

Maybe the problem with busyness isn't it. Maybe it's me. Me and my ego and pride.

Conceived of this way, busyness isn't an issue of time management and productivity, it's an issue of desire. When is enough, enough? When am I doing enough good things through which that God-given desire to feel productive and useful in this world can be fulfilled? When do I cross the line between finding satisfaction in the good day's work I put in and trying to find my identity through an ever-increasing load of ego-enhancing commitments?

I spend a lot of time thinking about how people can be more productive in ministry. And don't get me wrong, I want to continue to work on productivity/time management and all the rest. But until I work through the inner issues of why I try to do so much, all the productivity hacks in the word really just add up to enabling.

In other words, most days I don't need any more help being productive or managing the stress of work. I think I need help in managing my appetite for applause and the stress of opportunity.

I fear my busyness is simply a sign of my gluttony.

Displaying 1–8 of 8 comments

Robert

February 18, 2009  7:04am

Reg makes a good point. My comment is on our use of the word "relaxing". Working hard can be very relaxing if it is enjoyed. Many of our struggling society are "desperately" "relaxing" rather than enjoyably relaxing; desperately relaxing in front of T.V. or with alcohol or other prescription or illicit drugs or sex or food or purchasing items we can't afford or don't really need. As Reg says, if we could take on the "relaxing" yoke of God's hard work, then we might be so energized we wouldn't need the desperate relaxing we grab on our own FOR OURSELVES rather than with each other FOR HIM. Our eyes are bigger than our hearts and our society uses that to make more money.

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Reg

February 16, 2009  2:17pm

I hate to be the lone dissenter here but I can't help wondering if only the 'overly busy' are reading this item. It appears to me that most congregations are overflowing with believers who are doing very little for the Lord. They seem to be content showing up most Sunday mornings and then going back to their own life the rest of the week. People have suggested that I am 'too busy' working for God and yet I can see plenty of time spent 'relaxing', both with God and selfishly. I also see a great deal of wasted time in my life, despite a full time, secular job. To paraphrase a quote I once heard "I'd rather burn out for God, then rot away alone".

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Robert

February 06, 2009  7:55am

I agree 100%. North America appears to be in a vortex of consumerism that inspires us to "want" more stuff in order to keep life either exciting or comfortable or organized so we can [apparently] do more. What I hear is that we are having more but enjoying it less. For example, fast food that we zap in a micro wave and inhale while watching T.V. in order to rush the kids to an organized sport instead of the family spending 3 hours to help prepare a meal together, sit down at a nicely laid out table together and make daily prayer and conversation and clean up together in a leisurely manner. What a waste of good T.V. or organized sports time that would be. Teach our children how to make a good slap shot in hockey or; how to make a good meal, a good conversation, a good family, a good relationship with God.

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Paul Baloche

February 03, 2009  9:33pm

Thank you. I have wrestled and continue to wrestle with this reality. You gave me a lot of food for thought. I "pigged out" on this article- and bookmarked it to reread until it gets into my bones.

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Chris (Jesdisciple)

February 02, 2009  6:05pm

Thank you, Bob. In a way, I already knew this; I just hadn't looked at it from that perspective, much less understood the solution. Now I have to figure out what and how much activity is healthy for me.

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elly

January 28, 2009  12:22pm

A few years ago, I came across a university study which found that multitasking not only had a significant detrimental impact on short-term memory, but that while multitasking, the average worker's IQ drops ten points - compared to the four points dropped while high on marijuana. I like to quote it as a half-joke when people ask me why I'm not on MSN Messenger anymore, but seriously...how many more ways do doctors and researchers need to prove doing too much stuff at once is bad for you before people start settling down? (I don't know how to tag a link using HTML, so here's the address for that study: http://clearinghouse.missouriwestern.edu/manuscripts/815.asp)

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Jeremy

January 28, 2009  9:09am

Mary and Martha springs to mind, and a quote from Richard Foster that has stuck with me, that 'Christians should do less and be more.'

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trisha

January 27, 2009  9:10pm

While I think the author has hit on something with the concept of gluttony, I "feel" like something is missing in his analysis. I'm not sure people have any true Godly vision of what life should look like for a Christian right now-in this time, in this country, in this town, in this family. For my parents- in many ways-post WWII-life was very simplistic compared to today-not saying it was easy because it certainly was not but literally a million less choices. So maybe the issue is choice-how do we really handle all the options, how do we choose, how do we get a handle on what is true and godly and what is just culture.

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