“The important task rarely must be done today, or even this week… But the urgent task calls for instant action… The momentary appeal of these tasks seems irresistible and important, and they devour our energy. But in the light of time’s perspective, their deceptive prominence fades; with a sense of loss we recall the vital tasks we pushed aside. We realize we’ve become slaves to the tyranny of the urgent.” ― Charles E. Hummel, Tyranny of the Urgent.
This quote should be read on a regular basis. We live with a sense of urgency. Think about this: you’re going to spend the rest of your life doing something. Too often that something is responding to what is urgent instead of pursuing what is important. So how do we get past this? How do we start living the life that’s important to us instead of just responding to the everyday emergencies?
Learning to overcome the tyranny of the urgent or learning to choose what is important over what is urgent is what we find in Luke 10:38-42. Both Martha and Mary loved Jesus. They both wanted to honor Jesus and show their devotion to Him, but Martha was focused on what needed to be done for Jesus’ visit while Mary focused on Jesus. Martha was kind and gracious and wanted to be a good hostess for Jesus but all the details distracted her from Jesus. Mary, on the other hand, chose what was important. Mary knew that Jesus wasn’t around often and so she wanted to spend every moment she could in His presence. She wanted to listen to Jesus and learn from Him and love Him. Mary chose what was important – Martha chose what was urgent. While both actions are good, Jesus says ”My dear Martha, you are worried and upset over all these details! There is only one thing worth being concerned about. Mary has discovered it, and it will not be taken away from her.” (vs. 41-42)
If we want to choose what is better, then we need to choose what is important and not just what is urgent. To choose what is important we first need to identify what is important. If we struggle to truly understand what matters most in life because so many good things are competing for our time and attention, then let me suggest we put God first and allow God to help us prioritize our lives. This really isn’t my suggestion; it is the example of Jesus. Even Jesus had to choose what was important over what was urgent and it wasn’t always easy because the urgent things for Jesus were things like healing people and caring for their real needs. But Jesus had to decide if He was going to give His life to what was urgent or what was important.
We live in a time when the most we are called to give God is a few hours a week for small group and maybe a couple more on Sundays. We say, “Here God, take this part of me, but I’m going to keep the rest because I have some urgent things going on.” We want to give God everything but it is difficult. My prayer is that we will we put all the urgent things aside to focus on the most important thing, our relationship with Jesus Christ.
- If God is not getting everything we have, we either view him as unnecessary or unworthy. Agree or disagree and why?
- Is there anything in your life that seems urgent and is keeping you from the important? How can we begin to change that this week?