While we need to give the anxiety we feel over our busy schedules to God, and while we should enjoy a certain fellowship with God in the midst of the activities that keep us busy, very often our schedules are busy because we are idolatrous.
It’s very likely that you are not experiencing God right now because your life is devoted to pursuing an idol.
What is your definition of success? Finish this sentence: I will know that my life has been a success when _________________ . Be honest here. You might be tempted to say “when I have spent lots of time with my family” or “when God has been glorified,” but are those realities reflected in your schedule? I would say that most Western Christians are as driven by material success as the non-Christians around them. You’re busy because you have a corporate ladder to climb, because you have a name to make for yourself, because you find significance in productivity, because you are defined by your accomplishments.
John Feodorov created a painting entitled Office Deity that exposes this mentality for what it really is. The painting is intentionally modeled after a medieval icon. Seated on the throne, where the Christ figure would typically be seated, is the CEO. His fingers are held in a blessing pose, but instead of offering a blessing the CEO is holding a cigar. Surrounding the throne are the rank and file employees that serve the CEO. They clearly parallel angels, and they hold all of the means and the symbols of the CEO’s success.
Feodorov is not a Christian, but he has cut to the heart of our workaholic idolatry. Amazingly, he made this painting so that it could be hung in an actual corporate office! Can you imagine having to walk past such a reminder as you work on building your corporate empire? This would probably be healthy for all of us.
Whether we are worshipping the material goods that a busy schedule can bring us or the prestige that comes from great accomplishments, the idolatry inherent in our busy schedules is pulling us away from God.
But what about those who are busy in ministry? Surely this is not an idolatrous pursuit. Is it? Every contemplative minister will tell you that ministry can easily become an idol. For a few (think health/wealth gospel preachers), ministry is about striking it rich. For many, ministry is about the prestige of speaking for God or fixing broken people or the illusion of hyper-spirituality. For all of us, if we don’t already have a messiah complex, such a delusion could develop at any moment.
The messiah complex comes when you believe that you must save the people around you through your own efforts. No doubt there are huge needs all around you, and God does want to use you to spread His kingdom. But believe it or not, you are not the only person that God is using to reach the world. He hasn’t placed the weight of the world on your shoulders alone. He has a role for you to play, but yours is not the only role.
Maybe your busyness comes from a fear of being a nominal Christian—if you aren’t working like crazy for the kingdom, can you really consider yourself a genuine follower of Jesus? Laziness is bad, but so is an anxious, insecure, wrongly motivated flurry of activity.
Don’t get me wrong, following Jesus isn’t about living a leisurely life. We need to make sacrifices for the kingdom, and this will include our schedules. But we also need to realize that God’s plans for us are bigger than our to-do lists.
Before I end this series of posts, I want to reiterate that we shouldn’t necessarily run from our busy schedules—we can and should find ways to draw closer to God in the midst of every circumstance. But if an honest look at our schedules reveals even a hint of idolatry or self-messianism, then we have some significant changes to make. At the end of the day, anything—whether on our calendars or not—that we are not willing to give up for the sake of God’s kingdom is an idol.