We all want to be productive. Productive employees, spouses, parents… productive people.
But how is productivity different for Christians?
There is the worldly view of productivity and success – producing more to earn more money.
The worldly view of productivity encompasses your business life and parts of your personal life. In a way, productivity for a Christian is backwards, because the secondary parts of worldly productivity are often first for Christians.
This isn’t just about earning more money, though that’s part of it. This isn’t just about getting more work done, though that’s part of it. This is about living a productive Christian life.
Let’s start with the main way Christian productivity differs from worldly productivity…
What’s First? Jesus.
To be a productive Christian, we must actively pursue a relationship with Jesus first, putting our family second and putting our ministry next. Don’t get caught in the trap of equating church to God.
Both are important, but not equally important.
Nothing in your life is productive if you don’t have a relationship with Jesus Christ. In fact, your entire life will be lived for nothing, if you don’t have a relationship with Jesus Christ.
Remember how I said Christian productivity is backwards from worldly productivity? Prayer, reading your Bible and meditating on God’s Word are the building blocks of Christian productivity – those areas determine everything else.
Business productivity is part of the equation. We all want to build companies and organizations that help people and, ultimately, spread Christ to the world. But if you don’t focus on your relationship with Jesus first, the rest is not going to come willingly.
Productivity as a Christian
Time management, self development and success teaching is often criticized by Christians, because a lot of it is about greed and selfishness.
When practicing productivity, as with anything, it’s a matter of the heart.
When we’re devouring productivity books, reading blogs and always finding ways to become more productive, we have to make sure we keep our focus in the right place.
It’s not about you getting the most you can out of life, it’s about giving the most you can.
Here’s the quick view of Christian productivity:
- Make sure God comes first
- Make sure your heart is right
- Be as productive as you choose
Just make sure your ultimate goal is pleasing and serving God. When your ultimate goal becomes getting things done, being more productive, making more money, and pleasing yourself, you’re crossing over into a worldly view.
Productivity can turn into an idol if you let it.
When we accomplish goals and complete simple tasks, endorphins are released in our brain that gives a sense of satisfaction. We can actually become addicted to that endorphin rush, which may be God’s natural way of motivating us, but if we start to idolize the “high” we get when we’re productive, we need to take a step back and reevaluate our priorities.
Only God knows how long we have on earth. We should make the most of our time, but we’ve got to put things in the proper order. This carries into marriage and our relationships with our children.
What the Bible Says About Productivity
There is plenty in the Bible about living productively, for the Father. Jesus teaches a lot on how we should live. It’s obvious that He is about taking action, not just living day-to-day, going through the motions. Here’s what Jesus says in the book of John about our life:
“‘I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit. Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you. Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples. As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.”John 15:1-11
Jesus said much throughout the Gospels about producing fruit. Obviously there is no greater wisdom than God himself, so when Jesus told a parable, it was for a very specific purpose.
But Jesus wasn’t the only one to talk productivity. Proverbs has countless helpful verses.
The value of hard work and diligence:
“Whoever works his land will have plenty of bread, but he who follows worthless pursuits lacks sense.”Proverbs 12:11
“The hand of the diligent will rule, while the slothful will be put to forced labor.”Proverbs 12:24
“The way of a sluggard is like a hedge of thorns, but the path of the upright is a level highway.”Proverbs 15:19
Action speaks louder than words:
“In all toil there is profit, but mere talk tends only to poverty.”Proverbs 14:23
The importance of planning:
“Without counsel plans fail, but with many advisers they succeed.”Proverbs 15:22
“Commit your work to the LORD, and your plans will be established.”Proverbs 16:3
“The plans of the heart belong to man, but the answer of the tongue is from the LORD.”Proverbs 16:1
“Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the LORD that will stand.”Proverbs 19:21
“The plans of the diligent lead surely to abundance, but everyone who is hasty comes only to poverty.”Proverbs 21:5
Biblically, productivity means living for Jesus, bringing people to salvation, helping others, feeding people, listening to people’s struggles…ultimately, it means being Jesus to others, because for some, you may be the closest they ever come to seeing Jesus.
10 Ways to be a Productive Christian
I don’t like to broadly discuss things like productivity without giving some practical and actionable steps we can take. So here are 10 things we can do to be a more productive Christian:
- Track your time – Know where your time is going and be mindful of how you spend it. You don’t have to track your time everyday for the rest of your life, but you should at least track it for a month to figure out if your time and your priorities match up.
- Plan your days – Before you go to sleep each night, plan the next day. Plan time for everything on this list, and plan time for the most important priorities in your life. If it’s important, it needs to go into your plan.
- Stay organized – Organize your day, organize your finances, organize your time. Staying organized helps you to keep your mind on the things that really matter. Organizing also helps reduce stress, which promotes your focus being on God.
- Start in prayer – Begin each day in God’s Word, reading the Scripture and praying. Meditate on God’s Word. Renew your mind each morning before you go out into the world. Wake up early and discipline yourself to spend your first waking hours with God. (Proverbs 20:13) Ask God for spiritual peace. Ask God to show you His will throughout the day. Start small by spending five minutes each morning praying and asking for guidance.
- Take care of yourself – God not only blessed you with the gift of life, but he gave you a body to live it in. Take care of it. Get enough rest, exercise regularly, and eat healthful meals. You reap what you sow, so you will be blessed in the areas you take care of.
- Worship joyfully – Worship shouldn’t just happen on Sunday mornings. Worship should be a minute-to-minute practice – a way of living. Devote yourself to joyful worship, in spirit and in truth. (John 4:24)
- Walk in integrity – Be consistent. Do what you say. Say what you mean and mean what you say. (Proverbs 14:23) Your family and friends should be able to rely on you to keep your word.
- Listen to the Holy Spirit – God sent the Holy Spirit as a Helper for us to know how to live and what God is calling us to do. (John 14:26) Listen to the still, small voice of the Holy Spirit. Nothing could be more productive.
- Focus on today – Set long term goals and think about the future, but take it one day at a time. It’s important to not get ahead of yourself, and to maximize your hours today, instead of living in the future or the past, and the “what-ifs” that each one holds. (Proverbs 27:1)
- Think long-term – These last two points are not opposites, they should be used in conjunction with one another. Yes, you must focus on today, since that’s all you can control, but you need to have a clear, defined plan for the rest of your life.
Devote each day to God, pray for guidance, and you will live a productive Christian life.
Take Action: Get Organized
Find a good productivity system and start planning each day the night before. You can use a fancy app or just a simple pen and paper. Schedule out your time and make room for the things that truly matter.
Further Bible Study
Further Book Reading
- The Purpose Driven Life by Rick Warren
- Only You Can Be You: 21 Days to Making Your Life Count by Erik Rees
- Do More Better: A Practical Guide to Productivity by Tim Challies
- Time for God: Effective Steps to a Productive Life by Joe Luna
Last Updated: May 31, 2020