Is it possible to have a Christian view of productivity? Is it even wise?
If we’re going to think of our productivity explicitly in relation to God, we need to answer this question. There’s no use trying to develop solutions to problems which are impossible and thus doomed from the outset.
It makes sense for there to be a Christian perspective on prayer. But on getting things done? How can that be?
Considering a seemingly secular subject like productivity in relation to God makes some people uneasy (Christians as well as non-Christians), in part because Christians have made some awkward mistakes when trying to think Christianly about secular subjects.
Some wonder whether it’s possible at all, others think it alienates Christians and non-Christians on an issue where we should have common ground, and others think we’ll end up ruining the Bible by “importing” secular thinking onto it.
A friend of mine once said to me: “I started doing my Ph.D. on the issue of how Christianity and culture relate, and I concluded that it’s almost impossible to figure it out.” (I think he changed subjects.)
But we have to figure it out, because as Christians, we have to live in this world. That means we have to know how our faith relates to everyday things like productivity—let alone all the other fields of knowledge and vocations we live among and interact with all day.
Fortunately, we can figure it out. The Bible has clear teaching on this matter, and it’s not that complicated. We don’t have to settle for any of the three options above, and I think it’s easy to see why. Further, seeing this is exciting—and, more to the point, practically helpful for Christians and non-Christians.
We do have to admit that there have been many attempts to create “Christian” versions of things that are downright strange. I was in a truck stop once which featured a t-shirt that said “Faithbook: Jesus wants to put you in his book.” That’s just plain odd.
That’s one reason why I’m not a fan of creating “Christian” versions of everything in popular culture. We don’t need to create a “God’s Book” social networking site just because non-Christians invented Facebook. We should use and enjoy the good gifts of God’s common grace right along with non-Christians, and do so in ways that are natural and real, rather than coated with a veneer of artificial spirituality.
Trying to force a “Christian” way on something that is learned from observation and which just plain works is spiritual weirdness. It’s wrong, and we need to avoid it. When I fill gas in my car, there is no specifically Christian way to do that, and to create one would be strange.
Further, we can unnecessarily alienate non-Christians by presenting a Christian perspective on things that are largely in the secular arena. For example, there isn’t a specific Christian way to do heart surgery, and to attempt to create one would likely alienate all sorts of good doctors.
On the other hand, the Bible does speak to all of life, and we aren’t allowed to segment our faith into a special category as though it has nothing to do with seemingly secular things—including heart surgery or filling gas or, in our case here, productivity.
So what is the right way to think Christianly about secular subjects?
How to Think Christianly About Secular Subjects
The brief answer is that, as Christians, our faith changes motives and foundations, but not necessarily the methods we use.
So a Christian doctor and non-Christian doctor will likely go about heart surgery in the same way, using the best practices of the field and their training. Both will also seek the good of the patient, rather their own ends. But the Christian has an additional motive—loving God and seeking to serve him. This is a difference that is fundamental, but which can’t necessarily be seen.
That’s not always the only difference—sometimes there are variations in our methods (for example, the Christian doctor will likely pray before the surgery)—but it is the main difference.
The other change our faith makes is that it puts our work on a different foundation. We look to God for power to do all we do, including our work, and act not out of a desire to gain his acceptance but because we already have it in Christ.
With respect to productivity, then, we will likely use many of the same best practices as non-Christians for things like processing workflow or facilitating effective meetings. But when it comes to the motive and foundation of our productivity, the gospel brings in some radical transformations.
That’s the brief answer, though much more could be said.
The upshot is this: thinking Christianly about a subject doesn’t lead to the rejection of good common sense or separating from the world so we can do our “Christian thing.” Christians and non-Christians can have real common ground on a subject, without having to ignore the differences that faith brings about.
Not only can we live and work productively with those who do not share our faith perspective, we can learn much from one another and help each other in these important areas that affect all of us.