Does Productivity Hurt the Gospel?



Sometimes I wonder if our culture of efficiency is hurting me spiritually.

I love to be productive. I like to read blogs that have posts titled ?6 Ways to Get Everything Done? or ?The Ultimate Productivity Guide?. And don?t get me started on the book ?Getting Things Done?. Just thinking about GTD makes my lips get numb with excitement.

Lately though I?ve been wondering if my passion for productivity also tempts me toward legalism. To be honest, I usually feel like I should be doing something. I have this vague notion that I must always be productive and I have a difficult time simply resting. Sometimes I feel vaguely guilty when I relax.

And I know that some of this is good. I want to work hard in the service of the Lord. But the gospel is first and foremost about something that?s has already been done for me. I don?t work for the gospel, I rest in it. God delights in me because of what He has done, not what I will do.

It?s okay, and even good for me to do nothing at times. To rest. To watch a movie. To sit on the porch and sip coffee. To even (dare I say it?) play video games. Rest is a wonderful gift from God, and a wonderful reminder of the rest that I have in the gospel. I can rest without guilt because Christ worked for my salvation.

I?m still pondering this one. Any thoughts?

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+photo by Saad.Akhtar


  • Jessica says:

    I agree..but i think the culture of perfection hurts me more…. I recently did a project for the church I attend with a 2 week deadline and when I allowed one of the staff to review, his response was “is that it? This crap?” and started pointing out every single thing that was wrong with it. :(

  • Caroline says:

    “And on the seventh day God finished his work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all his work that he had done.” Gen 2:2

    God rested so I think its good for us to take a break too sometimes :)

  • Jeff says:

    I recently listened to two excellent messages by Brian Habig on the nature of Christian Sabbath. Excellent, excellent things to reflect on in our workaholic culture.

    It’s the messages “Shadows of Christ: Sacred Space VII” and “Practicing Sabbath.”

  • Rachel McC says:

    Ditto to Caroline’s Genesis quote. Also, if I never stop, sit, slow down…I never really give myself time to think, to ponder God and life.

  • js says:

    Many people stay busy because they are feel empty and wanting when they are not accomplishing things. Although it can look like diligence, hard work can also be a cover-up for a restless soul when all is quiet.

    What a gift it is to sit, relax, and know that we are forever in God’s favor because of the Gospel; to rejoice that the Sovereign of the Universe takes eternal delight in his bride that he saved to eternally enjoy worshipping Him!

  • Pattie says:

    I think the word itself speaks to this in Luke 10: Now as they went on their way, Jesus [4] entered a village. And a woman named Martha welcomed him into her house. 39 And she had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to his teaching. 40 But Martha was distracted with much serving. And she went up to him and said, ?Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me.? 41 But the Lord answered her, ?Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, 42 but one thing is necessary. [5] Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.? Productivity is good, but our identity and deepest satisfaction should never be found in it, but in our relationship and enjoyment of our Savior and King.

  • Shawn says:

    Stephen – Great post. Thank you for serving me by pondering this relevant topic. I can identify with the “guilty” feeling when I sit down to rest. I feel like I could/should be doing more – reading a book, studying, calling a parishioner, etc. Thanks for the kind reminder that God gives us the gift of rest and we need to relax in that from time to time.

  • Aaron says:


    I echo your post, but so does David Allen (of “Getting Things Done”). The whole point is to manage your workflow in such a way that you are able to make the right choices about what to do. That is, we need rest, (as taught throughout Scripture with some of the passages highlighted above), and sometimes the very best thing we can do is take a walk with our spouse and/or kids, or relax with a good fiction book (reading “Peace Like a River” right now with my wife and loving it!).

    GTD isn’t the gospel, but it does address your problem with a resounding “amen”!. We should be able to manage our work (corporate and personal) in such a way that we have the confidence that whatever we are doing is exactly what we should be doing. That way we can take a nap in the middle of the day (for one example) GUILT FREE and know that that is the absolute best thing we could do with that 20 minutes, especially as oftentimes this helps us to be more productive the rest of the day. Make sense?

    I think CJ’s posts on productivity were very helpful along this regard as well.

  • Aaron – Yeah, I agree. Functionally however, GTD doesn’t work like that for me. In theory it’s supposed to help me be confident when I take a break. However, it doesn’t take away the ‘feeling’ that I always should be doing something. I think some long extended meditation on the gospel will help me there…

  • Great post Stephen,

    The GTD idea seems to be a huge fad right now. The struggle for efficiency is everywhere. But God seems to speak to us in the quiet times, so they are the most important times of all.

    I forget who it was exactly, but a Jewish writer in the Old Testament times wrote that a good artisan should be able to finish his tasks in three or four hours so that he can spend the rest of the day in communion with God. To them, time with God was the day’s priority – not doing as much work as humanly possible.

    The eight hour work day is a product of the industrial revolution that we have all been raised to accept as a necessity. That’s where the guilt comes from in taking time to rest. To me it had to be a complete change in priorities that I didn’t even realize I had.

  • Chad, what priorities did you change and how did you change them?

  • Wow, that’s rough! Sorry that happened in a church!

  • B. Minich says:


    Here’s the ultimate GTD website.


  • Thanks Brando, that’s really helpful. I always knew the solution was something simple like that.

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