If putting a task on a to-do list just to cross it off defines someone as a Type A personality, then I join the ranks.
I like to write lists, make plans and portion out my tasks throughout the week. There’s just nothing like the satisfaction of clearing my to-do list at the end of the day. But lately I’ve started to understand that my productivity isn’t limited to tasks completed or items crossed off a list.
Maybe it’s not even about productivity at all.
The idea of productivity largely started when factories and the growing use of machinery industrialized the working world. People started focusing on increasing output while decreasing the time of production, so it should not surprise us that over a century later, our population is more busy and hurried than ever. So busy and hurried that we struggle to feel like we accomplish anything.
I’m not the only one who likes to cross things off lists. A quick Amazon search for books on productivity yielded over 30,000 results boasting checklists, thirty-day plans, and time management help.
Productivity is “the quality, state, or fact of being able to generate, create, enhance, or bring forth goods and services” — the perfect description of a factory assembly line.
But Jesus doesn’t call us to a spiritual assembly line.
Well done, good and faithful servant
When the Bible talks about how we are called to live, it’s common to find agricultural language. We memorize the fruit of the Spirit, hear about seeds landing on different types of soil and read that churches require planting and watering (1 Corinthians 3:6).
Growing fruit and plants takes time. You sow and wait to reap the harvest, showing up day after day, not giving up the first time pests strip the produce from the plants. It’s being faithful.
Paul instructs church leaders on how to encourage spiritual growth in their flocks, and over and over, he challenges them to grow faithful people.
When Jesus told the parable of the talents, He didn’t say the master gave his servants to-do lists to complete. He gave them talents to steward, nurture and cultivate. And the servants that did what he asked? He never called them busy, accomplished or productive; He called them faithful — faithful to do what he had trusted them to do.
“His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.’” (Matthew 25:23).
In Jesus’ parable, two of the servants were found faithful. One had been given ten talents and gained ten more, while the other did the same with five. Their master treats them equally, leading to two identical verses in Matthew 25. It didn’t matter that one gained more talents than the other — what mattered was that they faithfully stewarded the work they had been entrusted to do.
Go and do likewise
I will always remember the time I asked a friend of mine for advice on a difficult personal situation. Even though we were at a ministry event where I know she had things to do, she gave me her full, unhurried attention — even assuring someone who came looking for her that her responsibilities could wait. She prioritized talking with me over anything on her to-do list, and I left that night with a load off my shoulders.
We will always have things we need to do. Most of those things are very real God-given responsibilities. But our tasks aren’t ends in themselves. They are opportunities to sow and cultivate for God’s glory.
If I look up from my to-do list to genuinely care for the people around me, I may reap an opportunity to share the gospel with my neighbor.
If I faithfully do the little things at work that no one ever seems to notice or appreciate, I may be surprised with an unexpected friendship or encouragement. And if not, I know that God sees my work.
If I am willing to be faithful where I am, trusting God with the results, then my successes and failures can be used to bring a greater harvest than I imagined.
Our worth isn’t measured by our output, results, or tasks completed. Our worth is only ever found in the harvest of Christ’s saving work on the cross.
We don’t have to try to measure up, to stack our works and good deeds to look impressive. We are not working to meet factory quotas on a spiritual assembly line. We are called to work in His garden, cultivating growth day by day.
Wherever He places us, whoever He’s called us to serve, whatever work He’s given us to do, He asks us to be faithful. One day that “well done” will be infinitely more fulfilling than crossing any item off a to-do list.
Copyright 2019 Lauren Dunn. All rights reserved.