My friends at Crossway have kindly allowed me to post this extract from Kevin De Young’s new book Crazy Busy:
Pride is subtle and shape-shifting. There is more of it at work in our hearts than we know, and more of it pulsing through our busyness than we realize. Pride is the villain with a thousand faces.
People-pleasing. We are busy because we try to do too many things. We do too many things because we say yes to too many people. We say yes to all these people because we want them to like us and we fear their disapproval. It’s not wrong to be kind. In fact, it’s the mark of a Christian to be a servant. But people-pleasing is something else. Doing the cookie drive so you can love others is one thing. Doing the cookie drive so that others might love you is quite another. So much of our busyness comes down to meeting people’s expectations. You may have a reputation for being the nicest person in the world because the operating principle in your heart is to have a reputation for being the nicest person in the world. Not only is that a manifestation of pride and therefore a sin; it also makes our lives miserable (living and dying by the approval of others), and it usually hurts those who are closest to us (who get what’s left over of our time and energy after we try to please everyone else). People often call it low self-esteem, but people-pleasing is actually a form of pride and narcissism.
Pats on the back. This is the most obvious kind of pride: living for praise. It’s similar to people-pleasing, except less motivated by fear than by a desire for glory. “If I take on this extra assignment, I’ll be a hero to everyone in the office.” Never mind what it will mean for my family, my church, or my walk with the Lord, so long as it means more glory for me.
Performance evaluation. As in, we tend to overrate our own. Studies consistently show that almost all students rate themselves above average. Almost all employees consider themselves in the top tier. Almost all pastors think they are strong preachers. Because we regard ourselves so highly, we overestimate our importance. We assume, “If I don’t do this, no one will. Everything depends on me.” But the truth is, you’re only indispensable until you say no. You are unique. Your gifts are important. People love you. But you’re not irreplaceable.
After being gone one summer on sabbatical, I came back to hear glowing reviews about how well everything went at the church without me and how marvelously the other pastors preached in my place. Obviously, as the shepherd of the flock, that’s just what I wanted to hear. And obviously, as a sinner, it took some getting used to. Part of me would have felt better to hear that everything tanked in my absence.
Possessions. We work to earn, and we earn to spend. We stay busy because we want more stuff. It’s not wrong to want a new couch or even a new house. The problem comes when we take pride in our possessions, or, more subtly, when we are too proud to trust in God no matter what happens with our possessions. What does it profit a man to gain the whole world if he has no time to prepare for the world to come?
Proving myself. God is not against ambition. Too many Christians lack the initiative, courage, and diligence that ambition inspires. But ambition for our own glory must not be confused with ambition for God’s glory. Some of us never rest because we are still trying to prove something to our parents, our ex-girlfriend, or our high school coach.
Pity. Let’s face it: people feel sorry for us when we’re busy. If we get our lives under control, we won’t seem nearly so impressive and people won’t ooh and aah over our burdens. Many of us feel proud to be so busy, and we enjoy the sympathy we receive for enduring such heroic responsibilities.
Poor planning. I can look back and see many times in ministry where I was too hesitant to hand over certain tasks to others. I made my week unbearable and made my family suffer because of being too proud to have someone preach for me or too worried about appearances to have someone lead in my place. I let my planning be dictated by pride rather than by what would best serve my soul, my family, and my church.
Power. “I need to stay busy because I need to stay in control.”
Perfectionism. “I can’t let up because I can’t make a mistake.”
Position. “I do too much because that’s what people likeme are supposed to do.”
Prestige. “If I keep pushing myself, I’ll finally be somebody. I’ll finally matter. I’ll finally arrive.” Nonsense. You won’t be satisfied. The only thing worse than failing to realize any of your dreams, is seeing them all come true. You were meant for something more. Even if you could be known the world over, what does it matter if you have no time to be known by God?
Posting. If we’re honest, pride lies behind much of the so- cial media revolution. I’ve often had to ask myself, “Why am I blogging? Why I am tweeting? Is it for my name and my fame?” It doesn’t matter how big or small our following; we can turn Facebook and Twitter into outposts for our glory. Or—and this is more my struggle—we can fear what others will think if we don’t show up for hours, days, or weeks. We don’t want to disappoint hundreds or thousands of people we’ve never met, so we work all night and ruin the evening of the few people who depend on us every day.
Here’s the bottom line: of all the possible problems contributing to our busyness, it’s a pretty good bet that one of the most pervasive is pride. It’s okay to be busy at times. You can’t love and serve others without giving of your time. So work hard; work long; work often. Just remember it’s not supposed to be about you. Feed people, not your pride.
Content adapted from Crazy Busy by Kevin DeYoung ©2013. Used by permission of Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers, Wheaton, IL 60187, www.crossway.org.