By Brandon Crowe
When we ask, “What does the Bible say about work?” we often find a list of verses telling us to work hard and be faithful in our labor. But when we take a broader view of the topic, we can ask: how does the great commandment shape my view of productivity?
That’s exactly the question Brandon Crowe answers in the following excerpt adapted from Every Day Matters.
We must think about productivity biblically.
Being productive from a biblical perspective does not mean seeking first our own interests. Biblical productivity must be guided by the two great commands: loving God and loving our neighbor (Matt 22:37–39 ESV).1
Love for God is more than an emotion (though it ought to include our emotions). Loving God also means keeping his commands; love and obedience go hand in hand in Scripture. Jesus says that if we love him, we will do what he commands (John 14:15).
Loving God and doing what he commands means we must be faithful stewards of what God has entrusted to us.
This is illustrated in the parable of the talents (Matt 25:14–30). In this parable, Jesus speaks about servants entrusted with various amounts of talents (money). In each case, the servants are expected to be concerned for the master’s work while he is away.2 The first two servants are faithful, though they have not been entrusted with the same amount in each case (five and two talents, respectively). Yet both doubled the amount of talents entrusted to them. In contrast, the third servant hid his master’s money in the ground and did nothing with the talents entrusted to him. The first two servants were praised, whereas the third—who (wrongly) viewed his master as a harsh and unfair man—was chastised for being wicked and lazy. He did not even act in accord with the character that he thought was characteristic of his master. The third servant was wrong on both accounts.
It is notoriously difficult to make one-to-one correspondences to life from the details of parables (they are often more subtle than that), but one application from this parable seems clear enough: we are called to be faithful with what has been entrusted to us as we await the return of Christ.
This is a practical way for us to love God. We must not follow the lazy example of the unfaithful servant. We are called to be faithful with a little, and we just might find ourselves being entrusted with more. Elsewhere Jesus states that to those whom much has been given, much will be required (Luke 12:48). Productivity must be related to the first great command to love God with all that we are, which includes being faithful with what he has entrusted to us.
In addition to love for God, love for neighbor is also at stake in our productivity.
Keeping God’s commands entails loving our neighbor. Being productive means we are thinking not only of ourselves but of others. First Peter 4:10 connects stewardship to love for others: “As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace.” This should affect how we spend our time.
One way we love others is by doing our best work to serve them. If you’re a manager, this may mean doing your best to serve both your company (and those you oversee) and your customers. If you’re a student, it may mean humbly learning as much as you can to serve others in the future. If you’re a pastor, it may mean guarding the time you’ve devoted to sermon preparation each week.
We also love others by making time in our schedules for them. If I say I love my wife and children, but am never around or willing to spend time with them, then my actions do not show love. To make time for others, we need to be diligent and wise in the way we spend our time when we’re working.
One struggle in times of frenetic busyness is being distracted and distant even when we are physically present with other people. Perhaps there are a hundred things we feel like we need to be doing. We may even feel guilty for not working at that moment. This is another area in which this book can help—having a biblical productivity method in place can help you maximize the time you spend with others. Thinking proactively and intentionally about scheduling and productivity can allow you to be free when you are scheduled to be free, and to work when you are scheduled to work. This can be one of the simplest ways to think about what productivity is.
In short, being productive from a biblical perspective means doing all we can for the sake of Christ and his kingdom. I am especially interested in helping those who want to maximize their impact for the kingdom of God. Though no amount of effort on our behalf can merit salvation, those who follow Christ are called to diligent obedience as new creations.
This post is adapted from Every Day Matters by Brandon Crowe, available now through Lexham Press.