“Be on guard, so that your hearts will not be weighted down with dissipation and drunkenness and the worries of life, and that day will not come on you suddenly like a trap;” Luke 21:34 NASB
Speaking of His return to earth, Jesus exhorts us to prepare by guarding ourselves against three things: dissipation, drunkenness, and the worries of life. I have paid plenty of attention to being free from drunkenness and anxiety (the worries of life), but have not thought much about dissipation, honestly. I had always just assumed that "dissipation" was another word for drunkenness. But it is not.
Dissipation actually means "scattered living." So to paraphrase Jesus's instruction to prepare for His return, we could read, "Be on guard. Don't be slowed down by scattered living, or by the influence of alcohol, or by needless concerns about the future. Don't let these things keep you from being prepared for My return!"
It's amazing to see that Jesus tells us to be just as careful to avoid living a scattered life as we are careful to avoid living a life of drunkenness or one with a constant sense of worry about the future. Have I seen that scattered living is just as dangerous to my ability to be prepared for Christ's return as the sins of drunkenness and anxiety? Do I take being single minded in my devotion to the Lord as seriously as I take remaining sober and trustful?
I wonder whether this is a message for our times especially. I have heard that the word "priority" came into the English language in the 1400's, and was singular until the 1900's. Meaning that, throughout history, the word "priority" (literally, "the very first thing") was meant to describe the most important thing in one's life. But in the modern age, it has become fashionable to speak of our "priorities," (pluralized) or many "most important things." This speaks to the fact that scattered living has become more and more acceptable today, and all the more reason to take Jesus's warning against dissipation seriously.
It has almost become a badge of honor, when someone asks how things are going, to answer, "Busy." Let's not be proud of this, but instead seek to focus our scattered lives, seeking to maintain the highest focus on inward purity and walking in a manner worthy of the Lord, regardless of what may be going on in our lives.
At the same time, we must also be watchful against idleness. Interestingly enough, both busyness and idleness can lead to dissipation. We see in 2 Samuel 11:1 that David fell into sin because he had neglected his God-given responsibilities as king, which resulted in him having too much free time! Ephesians 2:10 tells us that we have been "...created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them," so we should be eager to do all that God has prepared for us to do, neglecting none of His purpose for our lives.
Jesus continued by saying, "...Keep on the alert at all times, praying that you may have strength... to stand before the Son of Man."
One risk of scattered living is that it gives rise to unwatchfulness. Because we can only pay attention to so many things, when we allow ourselves to be scattered, we can be caught by temptation unaware. As Solomon said, "They made me caretaker of the vineyards, But I have not taken care of my own vineyard." (Song of Solomon 1:6) There's a great risk of neglecting to keep our own vineyards (our own private life before Jesus) when we take on too many other responsibilities.
Andrew Murray once said that, "We need a holy temperance in regards to the things not absolutely imposed upon us by God," and I take this to mean that even in our good deeds and serving, we should seek to be certain we are only undertaking those activities and responsibilities which have been directed by God. Beyond eliminating needless activity, we should be willing to cast a critical eye on any of the good deeds we are practicing apart from the Lord's direct guidance. Just like Mary and Martha in Luke 10:38-42, our protection is in waiting at the Lord's feet for direction for all of our serving, rather than blindly taking the initiative on our own.
Let us seek to be free from all scattered living, whether such dissipation comes in through the busyness of too many "priorities," or through the idleness of neglecting the good works God has prepared for us in Christ. Let us instead be diligent to stay on the alert, faithfully fulfilling the particular purpose God has planned for our lives. It is as we wait at His feet and humbly obey whatever He asks us to do that we will be guarded from dissipation, and be prepared to stand at His coming.