From the Pastor's Study
From the Pastor’s Study
Not Able to Multitask
Oct 26, 2022
Recently I was driving and I heard a text message come in on my cell phone. I was tempted to look at it, but I knew that the fines for distracted driving are quite steep. A few minutes later I pulled over and answered the text. A few years ago I tested myself to see if texting while driving was as dangerous as they say and I discovered that it is. As I texted I was almost completely unaware of the world around me. They say that texting while driving is as dangerous as driving drunk. I think it might be even more dangerous.
When we are focused on one thing it is nearly Impossible to give our full attention to another. Some people say they are good multitaskers but I doubt that they are as good at doing multiple things as they imagine. It’s more probable that while they can balance several activities at once, they are not doing any one of them as well as they should be doing. Personally I am not much of a multitasker. I have a hard time concentrating on a conversation while something is waiting for me on the computer screen. If I even look at my screen I start to lose track of the conversation.
In one of his conversations with those around him Jesus said that we cannot serve two masters (Luke 16:13). We will we either hate one and love the other or be devoted to one and despise the other. As an example of what the meant he said that we cannot serve both God and money. When the Pharisees heard this, they sneered, Luke tells us, for they loved money. It appears that they believed that they could serve both God and money.
But what does it mean to serve money? Money is not alive and doesn’t make demands of us. It doesn’t make much sense to say that we can serve money because money can’t ask anything of us. The only way we can serve money is to make it into something that it is not. Only when we begin to imagine that money has the ability to make demands of us can we begin to serve it. To serve money, then we must first assign it a status that it does not have, namely make it into a kind of a living being. When we do that we will then feel an obligation to it. In most cases, when we serve money, we imagine that it has the ability to provide for us. But money does not provide, for it has no such ability.
This becomes the classic definition of an idol. An idol is a fake god to which someone assigns a status that it does not have. The idol, its worshipper believes, can provide in some way, but to get the idol to provide it must first be acknowledged and then served. The relationship becomes reciprocal as the human serves the idol, believing that the idol can provide them with something in return. Of course because the idol is not real it cannot fulfill its part of the deal. In the same way any sort of reciprocal relationship someone has with money is a relationship of futility, for money has been assigned a status it does not have. While we might dedicate ourselves to making more money with the hope that it will provide for us, we should never expect that money will give us what we need or yearn for.
The Pharisees were putting a lot of effort into making money so that they could depend on it. According to Luke’s gospel they loved money most probably because they thought it loved them back. But money does not love because it cannot love.
We may not find ourselves making money our idol, but we all have a tendency to create idols for ourselves. For some it may be sports. For others it may be their job. For others it may be an idea. In every case something becomes an idol when we find ourselves obligated to it because we believe that it will bring sort of fulfillment to our lives. If we find that something in our lives is making demands on our time and resources and we believe that we must give in to those demands, we have created an idol for ourselves. Most of us will have more idols than we might realize.
The problem of course is that when we give our attention to one thing, we cannot give our full attention to another. We cannot serve two masters very well although we might imagine that we can. If we have idols (and we probably all do, to one extent or another) we must give our attention to those idols and, as a consequence, give less attention to God. If we are dedicated to one we cannot be dedicated to another. It’s foolishness to give in to the demands we have assigned to our idols because our idols have no real status or ability. God, on the other hand, is real and has the status of personhood, and I so doing he can and does care. God has invited us to put our trust in him, promising that he will take care of us in every way. As a response, we are called to commit our lives to him fully. Where God differs completely from any idol we might create is in this: he promises to take care of us even before we have done anything to earn that privilege. With an idol we first have to serve the idol before we can expect a response. With an idol the fake reciprocal relationship begins with us and “works” only as long as we keep meeting the demands of the idol. With God, the relationship begins with God and we reciprocate in response. The two kinds of relationships are completely opposite of each other.
We cannot be multitaskers when it comes to our relationship with God. Spending time with our idols, whatever they might be, takes time away from the God who provides. That’s foolishness and it’s also far more dangerous than texting while driving. Serving an idol, more assuredly than texting when driving, will result in death. Focusing on the God who provides will result in a fulfilled life, more than we can imagine.