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  • Adam Schell

Why So Busy?

Last week at Melbourne Heights, we started a new series of sermons called Overbooked. And in this series, we’re talking about the problem of busyness. And this is a problem that we all have. Back in 2008, U.S.A. Today published a multi-year poll that found in each consecutive year from 1987 on that people reported they were busier than they had been the year before. And earlier this year, Pew Research reported that 60% of Americans believe that there isn’t enough time in the day to get everything done on their to-do list.

And when I think about just how busy we are, I can’t help but think of a song that was released by an artist named Jonny Diaz back in 2015. I’m going to read a couple of stanzas from this song for you, and as I’m reading I want you to listen for a word or phrase from this song that you would use to describe your life. Here’s how the song starts:

Alarm clock screaming bare feet hit the floor

It's off to the races everybody out the door

I'm feeling like I'm falling behind, it's a crazy life

Ninety miles an hour going fast as I can

Trying to push a little harder trying to get the upper hand

So much to do in so little time, it's a crazy life

And it continues:

Third cup of joe just to get me through the day

Want to make the most of time but I feel it slip away

I wonder if there's something more to this crazy life

I'm busy, busy, busy, and it's no surprise to see

That I only have time for me, me, me

There's gotta be something more to this crazy life

Now, after listening to those lyrics, what word or phrase did you hear that you would use to describe your life? Does your life feel like a race where you’re falling further and further behind? Do you feel like you’re going ninety miles an hour but you still aren’t getting ahead? Do you need multiple cups of coffee or energy drinks just to make it through the day? Would you say that your life is busy, busy, busy?

The truth is that many could use every one of those phrases to describe our lives because our lives are overbooked.

Our lives are overbooked.

We all try to cram more events and activities, more plans and responsibilities into our lives than we can actually fit.

But what we don’t often think about is the toll that all of our busyness takes on our lives. And I could tell you what the research says here. I could tell you that research conducted by the American Psychological Association reveals that prolonged busyness leads to chronic stress, which is linked to a host of health issues including anxiety, depression, and heart disease. Or I could tell you that researchers at Stanford found that busyness, especially when it involves multitasking, significantly reduces our cognitive performance impairing our memory, decision-making abilities, and even our creativity. Or I could tell you that research done at BYU has found that chronic busyness leads to a deterioration in the quality of our personal relationships. 

So I could tell you that being busy impacts every area of our lives…but I don’t have to tell you because you already know it’s true. You know that being busy has stressed you out, you know that your ever-expanding to-do list has kept you up at night, and you know that never getting a break has caused you to lose your temper with your kids. So you know the negative impact that being constantly busy has on your life. 

But that begs the question, if we know that being constantly busy has a negative impact on our lives then why are we still so busy? 

If we know that being constantly busy has a negative impact on our lives then why are we still so busy?

Well, the Harvard Business Review explains why we’re constantly busy this way, it says:

We live in a knowledge-intensive economy. In such economies, individuals who possess the human capital characteristics that employers or clients value (e.g., competence and ambition) are expected to be in high demand and short supply on the job market. Thus, by telling others that we are busy and working all the time, we are implicitly suggesting that we are sought after, which enhances our perceived status.

But I personally like the way Adam Waytz explains it in his book The Power of Human. In this book, Waytz tells the story of a man who recently immigrated to the United States who came to believe that the word “busy” meant “good” because whenever he asked someone how they were doing they often responded, “Busy.”

So why are we still so busy even though we know that constantly being busy has a negative impact on our lives? It’s because we think that busy equals good. 

We think that busy equals good.

And this means that we think our value comes from how productive we are, so if we aren’t constantly doing something we’re not being as good or as valuable as we should be.

And this way of thinking has been around for a long, long time. And, if you’ve got a Bible close by or a Bible app on your phone, I can show you what I mean. If you’ve got a Bible close by go ahead and turn to Exodus 5. Exodus 5. And, as you’re finding it, let me tell you a little more about the book of Exodus. And the word exodus means exit, so the book of Exodus is going to tell us the story of the people of Israel exiting the land of Egypt after they had been enslaved there for 400 years.

And in Exodus 5, we’re going to read a little about what life was like for the people of Israel while they were enslaved in Egypt. So let’s take a look at Exodus 5 together, and we’ll start reading in verse 1. Here’s what it says:

1 Afterward, Moses and Aaron went to Pharaoh and said, “This is what the Lord, Israel’s God, says: ‘Let my people go so that they can hold a festival for me in the desert.’”

2 But Pharaoh said, “Who is this Lord whom I’m supposed to obey by letting Israel go? I don’t know this Lord, and I certainly won’t let Israel go.”

3 Then they said, “The Hebrews’ God has appeared to us. Let us go on a three-day journey into the desert so we can offer sacrifices to the Lord our God. Otherwise, the Lord will give us a deadly disease or violence.”

4 The king of Egypt said to them, “Moses and Aaron, why are you making the people slack off from their work? Do the hard work yourselves!” 5 Pharaoh continued, “The land’s people are now numerous. Yet you want them to stop their hard work?”

Exodus 5:1-5 (Common English Bible)

So in the verses we just read, we start to get a picture of what life was like for the people of Israel while they were enslaved in Egypt. In these verses, Moses and Aaron go to the Pharaoh and they ask him to let the people of Israel have a three-day vacation so that they can go and worship God. Now, as far as we know, this is the first time the people of Israel have asked the Pharaoh for a day off in 400 years. For 400 years they have been working seven days a week, 365 days a year producing enough bricks to literally build entire cities in Egypt. So it doesn’t sound ridiculous for them to ask for a couple of days off.

But how did the Pharaoh respond? Pharaoh tells Moses and Aaron that there is so much work to be done that he can’t let the people of Israel slack off. And it’s all because the Pharaoh believed that a person’s worth came from their work. And a lot of us believe the same thing. We believe that a person’s worth comes from their work. 

We believe that a person’s worth comes from their work.

So, yes, the Pharaoh didn’t think the people of Israel were worth anything if they weren’t working. But he also felt the same way about himself. If he couldn’t keep building buildings, constructing cities, and expanding his empire, then the Pharaoh thought he was also worthless. So the Pharaoh wanted to make sure the people of Israel were always working.

And the Pharaoh comes up with an extremely cruel way to make sure the people of Israel keep working right after he met with Moses and Aaron. So let’s take another look at Exodus 5, and see what the Pharaoh does to make sure the people of Israel stay busy. We’ll pick back up in verse 6, where we’re told:

6 On the very same day Pharaoh commanded the people’s slave masters and supervisors, 7 “Don’t supply the people with the straw they need to make bricks like you did before. Let them go out and gather the straw for themselves. 8 But still make sure that they produce the same number of bricks as they made before. Don’t reduce the number! They are weak and lazy, and that’s why they cry, ‘Let’s go and offer sacrifices to our God.’ 9 Make the men’s work so hard that it’s all they can do, and they can’t focus on these empty lies.”

Exodus 5:6-9 (Common English Bible)

So in order to make sure the people of Israel are constantly working, the Pharaoh makes their job even harder to do. Now, instead of just making bricks, the people of Israel have to go out and collect the material they need to make those bricks. But even though the Pharaoh has at least doubled the amount of work the people of Israel had to do, he still expected them to produce the same amount of bricks.

So the Pharaoh was essentially saying to the people of Israel that he’s not only going to refuse to let them have a three-day vacation but he’s not going to let them have any leisure time at all. They are going to work from sun up to sun down every single day to prove their worth.

And, as you can imagine, this doesn’t sit real well with the people of Israel. But instead of getting upset with the Pharaoh, they get upset with Moses. And this is what they say to Moses in Exodus 5:21.

21 The supervisors said to them, “Let the Lord see and judge what you’ve done! You’ve made us stink in the opinion of Pharaoh and his servants. You’ve given them a reason to kill us.”

Exodus 5:21 (Common English Bible)

The people of Israel tell Moses that his request for them to have some time off so they can go out into the wilderness to worship God has caused the Pharaoh to think they stink. And what happens when something stinks in your refrigerator? You throw it out because no matter how much you paid for something it is worthless when it stinks.

So the people of Israel felt like Moses had made them worthless to Pharaoh just because Moses asked for a little time off from work. 

And even though all of this happened thousands of years ago, there’s a part of us that still feels the same way the people of Israel did. There’s a part of us that believes that if we’re not working, if we’re not producing, if we’re not doing something then we aren’t being as good or as valuable as we should be.

But not long after the people of Israel escaped from Egypt, God does something to try to change this way of thinking completely. Not long after they escape from Egypt, God is going to give the people of Israel some rules to live by – something that we usually call the Ten Commandments. And one of these rules, one of these commandments, is to:

8 Remember the Sabbath day and treat it as holy. 9 Six days you may work and do all your tasks, 10 but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God. Do not do any work on it—not you, your sons or daughters, your male or female servants, your animals, or the immigrant who is living with you.

Exodus 20:8-10 (Common English Bible)

One of the commandments that God gave the people of Israel after they left Egypt was to rest. And why does God give them this commandment?

God knows that the people of Israel are still going to want to define their value and worth the same way they did when they were enslaved in Egypt. God knows that there will always be a part of us, as people, that believes that busy equals good and that our worth comes from our work. So God tells us to rest – and not just to rest every once in a while, or when we can squeeze a couple of days vacation into our schedule – but to rest one out of every seven days to show us how wrong we are.

Because your worth doesn’t come from your work.

Your worth doesn’t come from your work.

You’re not a better person because you get a promotion. You’re not a better parent because you spend five nights a week chauffeuring your kids to different events and activities. You’re not a better spouse because you slave over a hot stove every night.

Because your worth doesn’t come from your work. Your worth comes from God. And I want you to listen to just a couple of passages of scripture where God tells us who we are to him. In Isaiah 43:4, God tells us, “you are precious in my eyes, you are honored, and I love you,” in Jeremiah 31:3, God says, “I have loved you with a love that lasts forever”. In John 3:16, Jesus tells us that God loves us so much that he sent his only son into this world for us. And in Genesis 1, after God created us, God said that we are very good.

Now, when we started this series last week, I told you that we want to help you find ways to slow down and clear your calendar, so you have time for what really matters the most in your life. But you’re never going to have time for what matters most if you think your worth comes from your work. Because if you think your worth comes from your work, you are always going to be busy trying to show your value, trying to show your worth, and trying to prove that you are a good person

So if you ever want to be able to slow down or just stop filling your schedule, you have to realize that your work will never define your worth. Being busy will never make you good. Your value and your worth come from God. And you don’t have to prove yourself to God, because God already loves you.

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