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The Table Video

James Houston, Bruce Hindmarsh& Steve L. Porter

Busyness is Moral Laziness - James Houston and Bruce Hindmarsh

Emeritus Professor of Spiritual Theology, Regent College
James M. Houston Professor of Spiritual Theology, Regent College
CCT Scholar-in-Residence and Executive Board Member / Professor of Theology, Spiritual Formation, and Philosophy at Talbot School of Theology and at Rosemead School of Psychology, Biola University
November 25, 2013

James Houston (Regent College) suggests that busyness is the narcotic of the soul — a form of moral depletion. Bruce Hindmarsh points out that the great figures of Christian spirituality were no less “busy” than us, but nonetheless practiced a different, more contemplative way of life. Moderated by Steve Porter (CCT Associate Director).


– [audience applauding]

I remember years ago, thinking about Steve’s questions about the busy pastor who feels run ragged, that I remember you said, busyness is moral laziness.


What did you mean by that?

Well I meant by that that perspiration is not substitute for inspiration. And that busyness is a narcotic of the soul, because it give me self-importance. But it’s a false source of self-fulfillment.

Yeah, I remember Steve being really impressed, just feeling that those pressures, just run ragged, and having this feeling that, if I could just get to the end, I have a little bit more, and get a little bit more organized, then there’d be space for self-care, for prayer, for acting personally. And I was rebuked by looking at a number of figures in the history of the church that were, pre-modern life was pre-analgesic, pre-antiseptic, and pre-anesthetic. I mean people just hurt all the time. And realizing that somebody like Richard Baxter and his ministry that Jim referred to, most of the time he’s tubercular, coughing up blood, and so on, and the same is true for a contemplative like Teresa of Avila, or Bernard of Clairvaux, these are busy people carrying enormous pressures, and I think busyness actually is an excuse.

Yes it is. It is a form of moral depletion, and so I never was busier because of my wife, with her dementia, and I’m solely her care, and so I have to be with her all the time, but at the same time I’ve never been more relaxed, because I think what transforms the workaholic into a meditative Christian is praying in the midst of everything you do. That you pray without ceasing, and so that meditative spirit that you have conjoined with all the pressures that you’re doing day by day gives you a whole different paradigm in the way of living. [calming music]