The Myth of Productivity

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Would you consider yourself a hard-working person?

Okay, now do you feel productive most of the time? Me? I don’t feel productive most of the time—even when I accomplish everything on my list for the day. Even when I work non-stop, I feel like I haven’t done enough. Sound familiar?

One day I sat down to think about why I was feeling dissatisfied, even though I had checked off all the items on my to-do list. As I looked into myself and observed my feelings, they led me to observe my thoughts. My thoughts led me to my beliefs. Then I found something surprising.

From a deep place inside, I was hanging on to the idea that my life could only have significance if I constantly worked and accomplished—and then worked and accomplished some more! Sitting beneath this belief was fear that I’d be a failure if I ever stopped being “productive.” I think many of us believe this without realizing it. We all have different tasks that need to be done, yet even when we accomplish them, we feel that it’s not enough. I realized I was feeling this way because I was neglecting the most essential component of my life—God. Because I wasn’t paying attention to this one component, everything else fell out of balance. 

Empty busy-ness

Having a connection with God is the only thing that brings true significance to life, and it’s the only thing that brings significance to our work. Without Him, we can strive, but it’s all empty in the end. By man’s standard, Solomon was a hard-working, successful King. He invested his life into building God’s temple. He grew the kingdom. He poured himself into important plans. But he also crumbled, frustrated, because everything was pointless without God. Sadly, his relationship with God had faded. Ecclesiastes 2:11 says,

Then I looked on all the works that my hands had wrought, and on the labour that I had laboured to do: and, behold, all was vanity and vexation of spirit, and there was no profit under the sun.

Work is a very easy avenue to avoiding God. If you’ve been trying to fill the empty space in your heart with work, it may be the reason you feel dissatisfied. Don’t worry though, it’s not too late for a fresh start. God is waiting for you to invite Him in right now.

Misconnection

There is someone who had the pleasure of inviting Jesus into her literal house. In contrast to king Solomon, this woman lived a quiet life in a town called Bethany. You’ve probably heard about Martha. From what the Bible and other commentaries say, I think Martha prioritized doing the right thing. She followed the rules because that was the right thing to do. She worked hard because that was the right thing to do. So naturally, when Jesus and His disciples came over, she did the thing her mother had probably taught her to do—clean, prepare, serve. When her sister sat down before everything was ready, Martha’s heart was hurt. Here she was, trying to do her part, and it seemed like her sister didn’t care.

Ellen White tells the story:

On one occasion, Martha, perplexed with the care of preparing the meal, went to Christ, saying, “Lord, dost thou not care that my sister hath left me to serve alone? Bid her therefore that she help me.” This was the time of Christ’s first visit to Bethany. The Saviour and His disciples had just made the toilsome journey on foot from Jericho. Martha was anxious to provide for their comfort, and in her anxiety she forgot the courtesy due to her Guest. Jesus answered her with mild and patient words, “Martha, Martha, thou art careful and troubled about many things: but one thing is needful: and Mary hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her. . .

Desire of Ages, p. 525

Jesus acknowledged that Martha was careful. She cared about what was right, but she didn’t yet realize something important. Her sister, Mary, wasn’t perfect. She was just captivated by Jesus. Martha needed to share the same experience.

A Renewed Experience

That was my problem. That was why I felt so dissatisfied even though I poured myself into being productive. I was hiding behind productivity—I was avoiding God. Why? Because I wasn’t allowing myself to become captivated. I would pray and read my Bible, but the practice became void of meaning. I was going through the motions, but I wasn’t sharing my heart.

How did I get to that point? Well, when we aren’t intentional about telling God what we honestly think and feel, we fall into formalism. Our prayers fail to communicate. Next time you find yourself endlessly pouring into work, think about your heart. Honestly ask yourself how your spiritual life is doing. If you come to the point of concluding you aren’t okay, the next step is to let God help you.

Begin peeling back the layers of formalism. Pray the things you really think and feel. Things will fall apart if we don’t embrace God above and before anything else. The key, however, to being captivated by Jesus is to also let yourself be embraced by Him. Be like Mary. Sit down and make quality time for Jesus. Eventually, all the other Marthas in the room may notice and become captivated by Jesus too! I pray that you answer His call today, “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light,” Matthew 11:28-30.

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