If we think of productivity as getting the most important things done, Jesus was the most productive human being to ever walk the earth. He lived here only thirty-odd years, but he won salvation for the whole world.
During the few years of his public ministry, Jesus was busy but never frantic. We can learn from his example about how and what to prioritise in our own lives. Luke records this episode from Jesus’ ministry:
“While Jesus was in one of the towns, a man came along who was covered with leprosy. When he saw Jesus, he fell with his face to the ground and begged him, “Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean.” Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man. “I am willing,” he said. “Be clean!” And immediately the leprosy left him. Then Jesus ordered him, “Don’t tell anyone, but go, show yourself to the priest and offer the sacrifices that Moses commanded for your cleansing, as a testimony to them.” Yet the news about him spread all the more, so that crowds of people came to hear him and to be healed of their sicknesses. But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.” (Luke 5:12–16, NIV)
I see two lessons that we can take into our own busy lives:
1. Show compassion
Jesus had throngs of people around him—desperately needy people who wanted to hear him speak or be healed. But Jesus didn’t just see crowds. He saw and showed compassion to individuals.
In biblical times, lepers were outcasts because their disease made them unclean. Anyone who touched them would also become unclean. It’s hard for modern readers to comprehend just how incredible it was that Jesus stretched out his hand and touched the man. He certainly could have healed him with just a word, so it was an intentional choice to show compassion with a touch.
There is need pressing in all around Jesus, but he sees this leper needing help and says “I am willing”. Surely he could have healed the crowds of people very quickly and moved on. That would have been the most efficient. Instead, he meets people on an individual level and shows them costly care.
Does compassion take a back seat when you’re busy and stressed? It certainly does for me. It’s easier in times of pressure to value efficiency over love. I’d rather get on top of my never-ending to-do list than slow down and meet the needs of the people around me. When I read account of Jesus like this one, my hard heart is exposed in the light of his never-failing love.
2. Prioritise prayer
As the news about Jesus’ great power spread through the region, more crowds came to see him and be healed. Jesus met the people with compassion, even at times where his disciples wanted to send them away.
Yet Jesus also knew how crucial it was to have time alone to pray to his Father. This passage tells us that he “often withdrew to lonely places and prayed” (v. 16). Nobody else could do the ministry that he was doing, and the needs were endless, but Jesus knew the greater task that lay ahead of him. He would soon endure the horror of the Cross. By communion with God he was spurred on to complete the work he came to do.
If Jesus needed prayer, how much more do we? It’s easy to neglect prayer as soon as my schedule fills up. But that’s when I need God the most! Every day—indeed, every hour—I need to be reminded of my weakness and God’s great strength. It’s good to send up quick prayers to God throughout the day, particularly in times of difficulty. We also need to withdraw regularly and spend extended times with our Father. As I read his Word and pray, I can cling his promises which transcend any temporary stress.
Your schedule is not your master—God is. Don’t let the tyranny of the urgent push out what’s most important. Loving others is a command, not an optional extra if you have time:
“Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience…” (Colossians 3:12)
We are also expected to pray regularly, both by command and example. Busyness is not an excuse for disobedience. The life of our Saviour illustrates what our highest priorities should be. We should seek to emulate him, as someone who loves God and loves people above all else.
What will it look for you to do this today? You might need to get into the habit of waking up earlier to spend time with God. If you read or listen to music on your commute, you could replace it with prayer. Be willing throughout the day to step away from your schedule when you have opportunities to show compassion. Set aside time this evening to spend quality time with your family.
If you consistently have no margin in your life, and these important things are pushed out, eliminate the trivial. Step away from lesser commitments, learn to say no. Do whatever you need to resist the relentless pull of busyness and prioritise what matters most.