To Do or Not to Do: Over-Consumers of Time
This last Sunday I preached on the first temptation of Jesus in the desert as part of our Lenten series on the Temptations (yes I just lost some of you who are now singing My Girl in your head). This temptation is to turn stones into bread so Jesus, who is “famished,” can eat.
Along the way of wrestling with this temptation I ended up in the Genesis creation story. In the second story of creation man is created first (it should be noted that in the first story man and woman are created at the same time so we probably shouldn’t make anything about the primacy of man) but is lonely. God declares that being alone isn’t good and after the rest of creation was found not to be fitting partner God creates more humanity and Adam greets Eve with relational harmony, “you are bone of my bones, flesh of my flesh.”
We are created for relationship. We are created to relate in goodness with one another and with God. But the story doesn’t continue like that. Created for relationships we become over-consumers and our over consumption threatens balance. We consume fruit, knowledge… and eventually (and not long at that) each other in the story of Cain and Abel. Instead of recognizing our interdependent relationship with the world we see in creation and each other (and even in God) something to be consumed. And fear that we won’t get to consume as much as the next person we became in competition for resources and predominance (because he or she who is predominant can command more).
Balance is lost, boundaries are lost… and created for inter-dependent relationships we instead become hoarders of more than we need to sate our desire to consume more than what would be enough.
This is what came to me as I stare – with Jesus – at the stone. Would Jesus become a consumer? Would Jesus take creation and turn it to his profit? He could… “if you are the Son of God…” but he didn’t.
Jesus – identifying fully with humanity in his deprivation, need, and temptations has a different notion about what it means to be Son of God. We know from his baptism that God has identified him as “God’s son, in whom I am well pleased.” Son of God status is not up for grabs… but what it means to be Son of God is. And the Son of God doesn’t fall prey to the temptation to make his primary identity be a consumer. It is by his reliance on the “word of the Lord” that he lives. I am not what I eat… I am who I belong to, and “body and soul I belong to God.”
Now I share all this to get to this point. Because when I put myself into this temptation there are many ways I can talk about a temptation to over-consume, and a desire to know myself by the “things” I have and the “things” I consume. But maybe because Genesis had already been on my mind where I feel pulled to hear this text challenge me is my desire to be an over-consumer of time. Boredom is perhaps the hunger we in 21st Century America really wrestle with. We dread being bored. We dread being hungry for something to do. Maybe it’s because we aren’t certain about who we are so we define ourselves by the things we do, and in constantly doing we don’t have to come face to face with our inner undefined selves. Maybe it’s because we are so convinced that we need to be producers and achievers that we believe there is something selfish to doing nothing. Maybe it is because we think there is a pride attached to being so “in demand” by the world around us that we don’t actually have time for relationships anymore, even with ourselves.
Our children do not get bored. They play video games, watch TV programs (do you remember when there was only like 2 hours of the day when cartoons were on TV? Our kids don’t… because its 24/7 now), go to club soccer, and karate dojos, and swim team. Most of this is good stuff… but when we do all of it the one thing our kids don’t know is boredom. And they don’t know it because I won’t let them; we won’t let them. We are so busy doing we don’t even know the people who live on our own street. It’s not the kids fault, it’s the parents who do it – tempted by society to believe that idle play is a waste and that boredom should be kept at bay at all costs. Tempted to believe that a productive adulthood must be achieved by programing our children like machines. Over-programmed machines.
It is easier to see in our kids… but it is true of most of us as well. We have turned the stones to bread, we have taken idleness and forced it to be productive. Only from the beginning (yup Genesis again) God knew that wasn’t a sustainable way. That way killed (consumed) relationship… and each other… and ultimately ourselves. So God rested… and commanded that we rest. God called for fields to lay fallow because even creation needs to rest, and God called us to let our livestock and slaves rest because… rest is a good in and of itself. Its seems by God’s decree rest is a “right” and an “obligation” to be defended, protected, and obeyed. Idleness is next to godliness. Because even God rested.
So as you journey in lent – as you find yourselves led, driven even, into the wilderness by the Spirit – may this be a time when you can look into your own life and see where you have sacrificed relationships in the name of consumption – consumption of things but also of time. And in that confrontation may you be guided to a way you might flip that script in your life. That you might rest, relate, reorient, and be reborn by the Spirit.
“God saw everything that God had made, and indeed, it was very good.” –Genesis 2:31