Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life, to mind your own business and to work with your hands, just as we told you... (I Thessalonians)
Doesn't that seem almost counter-intuitive? To "make it your ambition to lead a quiet life"?
How can ambition and quiet be related? Our flesh resists this. Aren't we supposed to want to be "world changers"?
The answer to that question is "Absolutely. Yes." But how we go about changing the world, as Christians, is a reflection of the upside-down Kingdom we are part of...that Kingdom where the weak are strong, and foolish things confound the wise. We change the world by being ambitious about being quietly busy. We can change the world by diffusing our own lives of all drama - and that takes a lot of work, of the "minding our own business" sort.
Read that last sentence again....please.
"Busy" has gotten a bad rap by all the quasi-spiritual whackos, who make doing very little seem like a worthy goal. They love to accuse the rest of us of substituting busy-ness for spirituality. But that is a false choice...no one has to choose between being busy and being meditative and reflective and thoughtful and spiritual. We are all to be very busy, working with our own hands - and very prayerful and meditative. I think the life of Jesus is the perfect example of busy, full days, and also rest and reflection.
My Preacher and I have over 20 years of pastoral ministry under our belt now. By far, we encounter more issues out of men and women who have too much time on their hands, than from those who stay busy in a healthy sense.
5 Signs That You Might Have Too Much Time On Your Hands
1. When others are under your scrutiny.
My husband has been taken to task over some of the silliest things, when he preaches a message. He has made some pretty big snafu's...but those get forgiven. He asks for forgiveness when he becomes aware of a large mistake. No, he has been taken to task by excruciatingly literal people, who strain at the nuance and meaning of a single sentence, a sub-topic of an aside. Those guys? Too much time on their hands.
If you find yourself analyzing others, you have too much time on your hands. If you or your teen know things about others you shouldn't know...you need to find other uses of your time. If there is more than a fraction of a small amount of discussion about the lives of others - your world is too small. If you find yourself offended more than once or twice a year....you have too much time on your hands.
2. An over attention to appearance.
Girlfriend, if you find yourself consistently late to church, or church functions, or work, because you are working with your hairstyle, or your outfit...you have too much time on your hands. If you are aware of how you walk or talk, or how you might look when you gesture...if you practice in front of a mirror....you have too much time on your hands. You need a different, more productive hobby.
3. An over attention to your child's offenses or drama.
All kids and teenagers and even college kids are going to encounter offense and/or drama. The best thing we can do for them is encourage them to get too busy to be so self focused. If we find that we become absorbed into the world of our child - we, as parents, must get a life. We have too much time on our hands.
If you find yourself joining in the gossip of your teenager - you better volunteer at a soup kitchen, get a part time job, do something. You have too much time on your hands.
If our sons or daughters keep having personal drama, I promise you....they have too much time on their hands. Take that to the bank. And get them productively busy....as in, right now.
4. Buying "things".
When people have too much time on their hands, they go on buying sprees, and find ways to spiritualize or justify it. "This outfit is for church!" (and you already have five good outfits - I'm guilty!) "This is so we can do more hospitality!" (and you don't do all that much with what you have right now) "God wants me to have this flock of Nubian Goats, so we can be self sufficient!" (what does He want you to give up?) If you find yourself doing a lot of shopping, online or in your car - you'd save a lot of money and time by planting a garden, or offering to clean a part of your church's building, or even ironing your twenty shirts.
Buying isn't wrong. Buying out of boredom or discontent isn't healthy, though. If you find you are often plotting and researching your next purchase...you have too much time on your hands.
5. Over-involvement in the lives of others.
There is a level of involvement with others that is healthy. Then, there is a level of involvement that is unhealthy - it is the direct result of boredom and discontent with our own life as God has given it. There is a level of involvement that becomes downright self serving. If "loving someone else" is meeting your own need for significance - watch out! You have too much time on your hands. It will backfire on you every. single. time.
If you find yourself consistently wanting to "write your name" on someone else...to be the important person in their lives....to do everything, or almost everything for them...finding reasons to drop in on them, or call them, or otherwise have a need to know what they are up to on most days....girlfriend, you have wayway too much time on your hands. You should not have enough time for unhealthy attachments. Not even to your kids.
And if you are a man, and you are that involved in the life of any woman other than your wife....no matter how much you try to spiritualize it, you should be punched. I'm not even kidding.
In closing, it is time that we become highly ambitious to have no time left over for Trivial Pursuit. If we do that one thing - get busy minding our own business, getting all the drama out of our lives, and out of the lives of our kids - being highly motivated to work with our own hands - finding ways to be productively busy - we will, almost by default, start changing the world.
I think it was Thomas Jefferson that said, "It is amazing what can be done, when one is always doing!"