As with a lot of shocking things, it started on Facebook. Only this time, instead of Uncle Fred’s political tirades or Aunt Jean’s cat photos, the surprising post came at the hands of researchers at Columbia Business School.* They had noticed an interesting shift happening here in America: historically, if you wanted to “keep up with the Joneses,” you would park a shiny new Lexus in the driveway; now, it seemed as though status was being measured by something altogether different – busyness.
So the researchers showed people status updates from two different social media accounts. In one account, the person posted updates (full of complaints and even humble-brags) about their overall busyness; in the other account, the person updated about a more leisurely lifestyle. Then the people were asked to choose: which person has a higher status? Not surprisingly, people assumed the “busy” person “must be of a higher status.”
When I read this article, I remember being vaguely attentive – in the glossy-eyed, vacant way I listen to my kids talk about Minecraft. But then I flipped to my calendar for the week and reflexively sighed at the sheer quantity of to-dos. And I remembered a conversation at church in which a friend had asked me, “What did you do this weekend?” For a second, I couldn’t remember any big activity we had done, and I felt embarrassed, as if admitting I had wasted time or been lazy. And I realized that I can fall into the trap of busyness without even paying attention. Soccer lessons for one kid means baseball lessons for another. A night out for mommy means a night out for daddy, and doing chores around the yard means that chores inside the house fall behind. One task leads to another, and – as much as I might complain – there is an odd satisfaction to penciling things in months in advance. If I’m doing all this stuff, I must be doing something right.
Jesus knows our proclivity to busyness, and – as with all counterfeit things we use to define our worth – He invites us to something better. Of course, He wants us to work hard as working for Him; He wants us to be good stewards of what we have been given. But right there, in the heart of the 10 commandments, He encourages – demands – that we find a better way.
The fourth commandment (which, incidentally, is also the longest) says this:
“Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord your God. In it you shall do no work…”
Old Testament scholar Walter Bruggemann says this commandment is the one that makes the first – and arguably most important commandment – possible. He says that the invitation to rest is an invitation away from anxiety, manipulating, and controlling; and, it’s an invitation into receiving, worshipping, and restoring. By obeying God’s command to the rhythms of work and rest, we mirror His creative process. We hand the reins of our identity over to Him, and trust that we – and the world we shape for ourselves – will manage to keep on spinning if we release our grasp on it for one day.
So this week, in the midst of office deadlines and sports schedules and demanding classes and clinging infants, I’m resolving to carve out time to take Jesus at His word; to really believe that if I break from my labors and come to Him, I will find rest for my soul.
Cited: Pinsker, Joe. “’Ugh, I’m So Busy:’ The status symbol of our time.” The Atlantic. Mar 1, 2017
* Bruggemann, Walter. (2014) Sabbath as Resistance: Saying no to a culture of now.” Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press