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The barrenness of busyness

The Lord said to her, “My dear Martha, you are so upset over all these details! There is really only one thing worth being concerned about. Mary has discovered it—and I won’t take it away from her.” — Luke 10:41-42

There’s danger in being idle. As Isaac Watts wrote:

For Satan finds some mischief still
For idle hands to do.

Good honest work, apart from exercising muscles and putting food on the table, acts as a deterrent against the temptations that cluster around an idle life. But if busyness is the antidote to idleness, we should be aware that there’s a sting in the tail of busyness, too.

Martha, the friend of Jesus, is a great example. No one can fault the lady for being busy when she found that Jesus and His hungry disciples had arrived for lunch. And her frustration with her sister who sat around talking when she could have been doing kitchen duty is perfectly understandable. But when Martha remonstrated with Jesus and suggested that He “tell her to come and help” (Luke 10:40), He replied that Mary had grasped something that Martha had overlooked. But what was it?

Martha is the patron saint of all those who are so busy that they don’t have time to care for the nourishment of their own souls. What they are doing is necessary, important, and helpful—but ultimately destructive! As they expend physical and emotional energy, they neglect the infusion of spiritual power.

Mary knew better than to let this happen with her. She took an opportunity that was all too scarce for women in those days: to sit “at the Lord’s feet, listening to what he taught” (10:39).

Put in the simplest of terms, busyness leads to barrenness. Busyness keeps us away from taking the time to read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest God’s Word. Being nourished by God’s Word is like a conversation between two friends who listen and respond to each other and are encouraged by the encounter. Spiritual nourishment flows to the life of the person who regularly takes time to listen to the Lord in His Word, responding in prayer to what the Lord has said.

Of course, prayer that is based on God’s Word is more likely to be close to the mind of the Lord than prayer that comes purely from the self-interest of the one praying. This is clear from the prayer Jesus taught His disciples (11:1-4). This prayer is concerned first that the Lord’s name be hallowed and His kingdom come. Then, and only then, prayer turns to legitimate matters of personal concern—such as daily bread, relationships where we sin and others sin against us, and spiritual issues such as temptation.

It is true that the cure for idleness is busyness. But beware the barrenness of busyness that ignores the secret of blessedness.

For further study: Luke 10:38-11:13

Content taken from The One Year Book of Devotions for Men by Stuart Briscoe. Copyright ©2000. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers. All rights reserved.