Business and Busy-ness

All too easily, we forget the distinction. Business is what we’re supposed to be doing. Busy-ness is what we all too often do. There’s a difference.

Our “business” may be our daily work or employment. It may be buying and selling, or providing a service. It may be caring for our family. It might be a deeply-held spiritual or social concern. It might be spending time in prayer, or taking time off to think about something. According to the dictionary, business is what “engages our time, attention or labor as a principal serious concern or interest.”

Busy-ness, on the other hand, is what we fill our time with. It’s all the fluff and distraction, the non-essential nonsense that takes the place of the real business of our lives.

Much of our culture is built on busy-ness. We’re flooded with ads, with appeals, with news and sports, with opportunities, all designed to distract us from what is really meaningful or vital. Does it really matter who won the Emmy awards? Will this new deodorant really bring us lots of friends? Does Miller Beer really make life worth living? Will today’s news really change the course of world history, or will we still face the same challenges tomorrow?

It may not matter that our children are always freshly scrubbed; it may be more important that we spend time with them. It doesn’t matter that our lawns are the most weed-free on the block; it’s more important that our homes be friendly and inviting. Getting a promotion or moving up the corporate ladder don’t always mean that we’re doing our job well, or that we’re even doing the right job at all.

We use busy-ness to tell ourselves and other people how important we are. We use it to shield ourselves from uncomfortable truths we know in our hearts. Busy-ness lets us pretend that we’re doing all we can, because our time is filled. As a friend of mine put it, “Maybe if we keep busy doing lots of things all the time, God won’t catch us in our emptiness…”

Boredom, depression, desperation and frustration can all be signs that what we’re doing isn’t what we’re meant to do. Busy-ness should remind us that something inside us is deeply wrong. Dropping some of our busy activities may be painful. The alternative, though, is to wake up to the fact that we’ve wasted our lives.

It isn’t always easy to draw the distinction between business and busy-ness. An active person may have a deeply centered inner life, or their outward activity may hide an inward hollowness of heart. A person who appears to be idle, or who does seemingly humble or useless things, may actually be doing important work.

Prayer is an important tool for separating business from busy-ness. Quiet prayer times offer the opportunity to look over our lives and see whether our lives are filled, or simply busy. A few hints:

• When we’re doing the real business God has given us, it feels like freedom; busy-ness always winds up feeling like slavery or bondage.

• God supplies our needs to accomplish our real business; with busy-ness, there is never enough.

• Doing God’s business always leads to trust in God; busy-ness is always accompanied by anxiety.

• Discovering our real business results from hearing Jesus say, “Follow me...” Busy-ness results from ignoring God.

The challenge is always for us to be doing the business of God. Our daily lives, our employment, our recreation, the way we raise our families, our worship, our spiritual disciplines and testimonies — all these are God’s business. Prayer, reflection and discussion will show us whether we’re doing things God’s way, or our own way.

 

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2 Responses to “Business and Busy-ness”


  1. 1 Dorothy Grannell June 19, 2014 at 4:27 pm

    Some years ago, New England Yearly Meeting had a Jubilee Year in which only the most critical business was done. There was a greatly increased time for open, waiting worship in place of business sessions. I was one of those who complained – how were we to get the work of the Yearly Meeting done. Guess what? We got it done and we found a whole new approach to business and busy-ness. It is hard not to slip back into the old habits, but taking that time to seek the connection to God is so important and when we wait and pray and listen so much good comes from it. At least it has for NEYM. We have been released to let our spirit soar.and connect with the More in wonderful ways.

  2. 2 rcarter06 June 22, 2014 at 6:10 am

    Thank you, Josh. This is a wonderful article. I’m going to share it with our mentoring group at Moffat Bible College. It will complement well an article by Henri Nouwen entitled “Moving from Solitude to Community to Ministry”.


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All of the posts on this blog are my own personal opinion. They do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the members and attenders of the meeting where I belong or any organization of Friends. For more information, click on the "About Me" tab above.

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