Tuesday, June 25, 2019

No time for mission?

The number one excuse given by otherwise obedient disciples as to why they can't engage in mission? Surely you know the answer already... too busy! Of course busyness is the answer we give to everything today, as it is the most polite way to decline an invitation in our society, and it is a way for us to signal our virtue. After all, if we're busy we must be doing something worthwhile and productive with our lives! (There's an interesting new book, Seculosity, by David Zahl that explores busyness as our culture's new version of "righteousness.")

Unfortunately for us, in the light of history it seems the numbers just don't add up. This morning a favorite blog of mine, Jesus Creed, shared some fascinating evidence and statistics put together by Robert Whaples, a professor of economics at Wake Forest University ((https://eh.net/encyclopedia/hours-of-work-in-u-s-history/). Essentially, Whaples demonstrates that those of us living in the present time have far, far more leisure time than anyone living in history. For example, if you lived in the 1800's, there was a good chance you worked 60-70 hours a week on average (six days a week, at ten to twelve hours a day). The average man at that time would have had 1.8 hours of discretionary or leisure time per day, averaged over the course of the year. Today, the average working man averages 5.8 hours of discretionary or leisure time per day, averaged over the course of the year. 

Here is a chart with the implications of this over the course of a lifetime:

 Estimated Trend in the Lifetime Distribution of Discretionary Time, 1880-2040
Activity 1880 1995 2040
Lifetime Discretionary Hours 225,900 298,500 321,900
Lifetime Work Hours 182,100 122,400 75,900
Lifetime Leisure Hours 43,800 176,100 246,000
Source: Fogel (2000)
Notes: Discretionary hours exclude hours used for sleep, meals and hygiene. Work hours include paid work, travel to and from work, and household chores.

Pretty amazing change! We're supposedly the busiest generation ever, but it's not because of work!

The reason I'm sharing this is not to guilt trip anyone, or because I begrudge people their leisure hours. It's simply to make a few points. First, our busyness is self-imposed; it's not because we're working ourselves to the bone to survive. It's a choice we make. Second, we don't manage our time well, and we blow it on the internet and social media and entertainment. Finally, if we can't "find" time to faithfully engage in mission it most likely means that it's just not a priority to us... Which means that being a disciple of Jesus is just not a priority to us.

Please note, if you are one who does work 60-70 hours a week, and/or are swamped with babies or other desperately needy persons, this blog entry was not meant to target you. Of course workaholism is an issue too, but that's not what this post is about. This post is about those of us who fit into the average categories for work but want to claim we're strapped for time... Don't believe us!

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