I remember reading in the late 1980s that because of computers and their productivity we were entering a world of limitless free time, a calm and creative age. Instead, as the theologian Colin Gunton observed, our world is “chiefly marked by its level of rush, frenetic busyness, and stress.”
Indeed our lives have been consumed by the assumption that ever more frenetic work is just the way of the world. If you challenge this imperative, you may be labeled idealistic or unrealistic. To be successful, you must be available 24/7 for your employer. Free time on weekends and holidays has too often become optional. Many Americans do not use their yearly vacation allotments.
As people of faith, how should we think about this activity tsunami? Lets start with the notion that our primary duty is to love our God with our all our heart, mind, and soul. (Matt. 22:37). If we make anything our ultimate priority in the place of God, we have adopted a false idol. When we think of an idol, we often have biblical images of a golden calf, (Ex. 32) but an idol is any commitment that is in a higher place than the living God. (Mark 13:14) In our time, it takes many forms like work, ideology, status, sexual conquest, power, wealth, physical prowess or personal beauty.
Having recognized the problem, we can recommit to our spiritual lives. Amidst the daily frenzy, we should disconnect at times from our devices of interruption and distraction. Instead, we should devote more time to other activities where we can find God-prayer, music, reading scripture, attending Church, helping those in need, gardening, or hiking. Or perhaps we should just be still. “Be still and know that I am God.” (Ps. 46:10) To this end, let us also secure the Sabbath from work or shopping. (Ex: 20:8-11)
There will be powerful voices arguing against this recommendation. Bill Gates once noted that religion “was not very productive” and there was a lot more he could be doing with his time. For Gates output should equal or exceed input; two units of prayer should produce two units of grace. But we cannot force the hand of God; his ways are not our ways. (Is. 55:8) So let us honor God by ordering our lives as if we really value him more than anything else. And let us be still and listen.
1) Write down your five highest priorities and then write down the five areas where you spend the most time, energy, money and commitment. Are these aligned and if not why not?
2) How can you reorder your priorities to make God first?
3) How can you be still and find God?
Lord, help me to be still, to listen for you, for you are my God.
Remind me to forsake the false idols of a restless world,
They offer only a glittering mirage of riches, fame, or status.
Such idols produce the barren fruits of our modern desert.
So grant me the grace to keep you before me.
I cannot do this alone; my pride resists you.
But your living waters can replenish my soul.
Now I will be still and await your mercy and love.
For you are my God; I have no other.
Dr. Phillip M. Thompson is the Executive Director of the Aquinas Center of Theology at Emory University. Previously, he was the director of a leadership certificate program, LEAD, in the School of Public Policy at Georgia Tech and for a decade (1984-1994) was a trial attorney. He is the author of two books, Between Science and Religion and Returning to Reality, Thomas Merton’s Wisdom for a Technological World. For more on the Aquinas Center go to www.aquinas.emory.edu. For more on his book, Returning to Reality, go to https://wipfandstock.com/store/Returning_to_Reality_Thomas_Mertons_Wisdom_for_a_Technological_World.
This article was created for “The High Calling” – http://www.