Busyness is a huge issue for many people today. Our lives are filled with work, family responsibilities, church activities, hobbies, and more. It’s easy to become overwhelmed by all we have to do. So what guidance does the Bible offer on this topic?
The Bible doesn’t explicitly use the word “busyness,” but it has a lot to say about living wisely and setting proper priorities. A major theme is the importance of putting God first in our lives rather than letting other things crowd Him out.
The dangers of busyness
Being too busy can be spiritually dangerous. When we fill our schedules to the brim, we may no longer have time to regularly read the Bible, pray, or serve God. We can become so focused on checking tasks off our to-do list that we neglect our relationship with the Lord.
Jesus warned about this problem in His parable of the sower. He said, “As for what was sown among thorns, this is the one who hears the word, but the cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches choke the word, and it proves unfruitful” (Matthew 13:22). When we’re consumed by the busy cares of this world, God’s Word gets crowded out of our lives.
Busyness can also lead us into sin. When we’re overwhelmed by everything on our plate, we’re more prone to make compromises – cutting corners at work, speaking harshly to our family, or blowing off quiet time with God. As Psalm 127:2 says, “It is in vain that you rise up early and go late to rest, eating the bread of anxious toil; for he gives to his beloved sleep.” Running ourselves ragged can make us anxious and weaken our integrity.
In addition, busyness can be caused by sinful motives like greed, pride and discontentment. We overschedule ourselves striving after more money, prestige and possessions, when godliness with contentment should be our goal (1 Timothy 6:6-8).
The need for rest
God wired us for regular rest. After creating the world in six days, He set the example by resting on the seventh (Genesis 2:2-3). We cannot keep going nonstop without paying a toll on our physical, mental and spiritual health.
Getting adequate rest allows us to serve God with vigor and joy. The psalmist wrote, “It is in vain that you rise up early and go late to rest, eating the bread of anxious toil, for he gives to his beloved sleep” (Psalm 127:2). When we try to burn the candle at both ends, we’ll burn out. God wants us to balance work with renewal.
Jesus modeled a sustainable pace. “And rising very early in the morning, while it was still dark, he departed and went out to a desolate place, and there he prayed” (Mark 1:35). Jesus made time to pray and reflect so that He could pour himself out to serve others.
The Bible says God even commanded rest. After delivering the Ten Commandments, including “six days you shall labor and do all your work,” God added, “But the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work” (Exodus 20:9-10). This was for Israel’s benefit, not God’s. He wanted His people to regularly slow down.
The problem with endless activity
Scripture warns against defining ourselves by constant busyness. King Solomon had an immense to-do list – building projects, botanical research, administrative duties (Ecclesiastes 2:4-11). But looking back, he realized activity without God is meaningless: “Then I considered all that my hands had done and the toil I had expended in doing it, and behold, all was vanity and a striving after wind, and there was nothing to be gained under the sun” (Ecclesiastes 2:11).
Similarly, when Jesus visits the home of Mary and Martha, Martha is swept up in activity and rebukes her sister for sitting at Jesus’ feet. But Jesus responds, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her” (Luke 10:41-42). Jesus reminds us that time spent abiding in His presence should be our priority.
God cares more about the state of our heart than an endless checklist of tasks. “My son, give me your heart and let your eyes delight in my ways” (Proverbs 23:26). He wants us to serve and work from a place of devotion to Him, not merely staying busy.
The Bible encourages diligent work and warns against laziness (Proverbs 6:6-11; 2 Thessalonians 3:6-12). So how do we strike the right balance between resting and working productively?
We must intentionally build margins into our schedule. Jesus would frequently withdraw to desolate places for prayer (Luke 5:16). Likewise, we need unhurried time to sit in God’s presence.
It’s also important to observe Sabbath rest. While Christians differ on whether this means Sunday or another day, the principle is that we regularly cease our usual labor to worship God and be renewed.
We should examine our motives. Why are we so busy? Is it to please God or impress others (Colossians 3:23-24)? We may need to trim obligations that apply unnecessary pressure.
When serving at church, we should focus on sustaining a few ministries we’re most passionate about rather than scattering ourselves across twenty different roles.
We can also look for creative solutions like enlisting help, delegating tasks, simplifying our lifestyle, and learning to say no to optional commitments.
Most importantly, we fight busyness with time in God’s Word, prayer, worship, and Christian fellowship – those practices that strengthen our walk with the Lord.
Storing up true riches
Busyness often stems from chasing after wealth, status, and pleasures – things the Bible calls “treasures on earth” that do not last (Matthew 6:19-21). Instead, God wants us to pursue “treasures in heaven” by investing in things of eternal value.
Jesus told His disciples, “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matthew 6:19-21).
What does it look like to store up heavenly treasures? Things like sharing our faith, making disciples, acts of service, giving generously, praying, reading Scripture, walking in holiness, building Christian community, and loving others. When we orient our lives around treasures like these, we find greater purpose and meaning.
Paul captures this well: “So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal” (2 Corinthians 4:18). Eternal rewards should be our priority, not the temporary busyness of this life.
Waiting on the Lord
When we start to feel overwhelmed by busyness, God doesn’t want us to keep charging ahead. He wants us to wait on Him. Isaiah 40:31 promises, “…they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.” Waiting on God brings the refreshment we need to avoid burnout.
Waiting involves prayerfully surrendering our schedules to the Lord and seeking His wisdom on priorities: “Show me Your ways, O Lord; Teach me Your paths. Lead me in Your truth and teach me” (Psalm 25:4-5). As God recalibrates our schedules, He gives strength and lifts burdens.
Waiting also means resting patiently for God’s timing rather than forcing outcomes in our timing. “Rest in the LORD and wait patiently for Him” (Psalm 37:7). God may delay answers to build our trust in His perfect timing.
Jesus lived a busy life but never rushed ahead of the Father or stressed over deadlines. He waited on God’s timing (John 2:4; 7:6). We can draw close to God in our busyness when we follow Christ’s example of waiting on the Father.
The antidote to anxiety
Busyness feeds anxiety. When our schedules feel out of control, we easily become worried and depressed. What’s the solution?
God tells us, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:6-7).
Instead of anxiously rushing, we’re to turn to God in prayer with thanksgiving, fully casting our cares on Him (1 Peter 5:7). As we do, His supernatural peace replaces our anxiety. This frees us from feeling crushed by the weight of busyness.
Isaiah 26:3 also promises, “You will keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on You, because he trusts in You.” Keeping our mind fixed on the Lord through Scripture meditation and prayerful trust defuses anxiety even in crazy seasons.
We don’t have to live on overwhelm-autopilot and “self-medicate” busyness with diversions. God wants to infuse our schedules with supernatural peace as we seek Him (John 14:27).
Seeking God first
At the end of the day, God wants to be first place in our lives, not an afterthought we squeeze in when it’s convenient. Everything else must flow out of a primary relationship with Him.
Jesus said, “But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you” (Matthew 6:33). When we prioritize knowing Christ above all else, He graciously takes care of the rest.
We see this with Mary and Martha. Distracted Martha complained to Jesus that her sister wasn’t helping with preparations. But Christ replied, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her” (Luke 10:41-42). Sitting at the feet of Jesus must be central.
Psalm 27:4 captures the key to fighting busyness: “One thing I ask from the LORD, this only do I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to gaze on the beauty of the LORD and to seek him in his temple.” Everything else must flow out of beholding Christ.
Fighting busyness requires regular spiritual check-ups, asking: “Am I abiding in Christ daily? Is He truly first place?” We may need to repeatedly hand our schedules back to God until He has His rightful place.
As Dallas Willard wrote, “Hurry is the great enemy of spiritual life in our day. You must ruthlessly eliminate hurry from your life.” May God grant us wisdom in the daily battle against unrestrained busyness!