Our modern society is all about going, moving forward, working hard, hustling every chance we get. Anything less than that isn’t doing enough, isn’t spending our time wisely, is wasting away the precious gift God grants us with each day and each breath…right?
It’s about time to challenge that stringent connection between self-worth and daily productivity. We can remind ourselves to be gentle, to not beat ourselves up for every time we want to relax and not think about our lists of responsibilities even for a moment, but we likely keep on doing it.
Another way to understand this mentality and work against it is through Scripture. God is a source of inspiration in so many ways, and this inner dilemma is no exception. We might assume that the years of history separating biblical and current times would make such a problem out-of-touch with the Israelites and Jesus’s apostles, but you’d be surprised to learn otherwise. Even God rested. Why shouldn’t we?
Always a strong work ethic?
The major difference that comes to mind between modern and biblical times is that the Israelites lacked technology and common amenities we often overlook. How nice it is to have a computer to type this post on that I can share with the entire internet that connects us to seemingly infinite amounts of information and millions of people around the world! And let’s not forget the simple privileges of having food to eat, clean water to drink, clothes to wear, and comfortable shelters to reside in.
Although these things are all nice, it almost makes us feel guilty for having all these blessings that make our lives easier, thus assuming we should be using the energy once used toward simply surviving each day instead toward going above and beyond to accomplish fantastic goals every chance we get.
God rested when creating the universe and world, and He commands us to rest, too. For the Israelites, this was the Sabbath Day, so important that an entire commandment is dedicated to observing it. Exodus 34:21 says, ““Six days you shall work, but on the seventh day you shall rest. In plowing time and in harvest you shall rest.” In that rest, we are given the opportunity to step away from our work and daily toil and instead focus our attention on the Lord, how He rejuvenates our energy and spirit, and prepares us for the whatever work may lie ahead.
Interpreting “productive” verses.
We might first think of all the biblical references that promote a strong work ethic and describe laziness as sinful. However, is there another way to look at them?
Proverbs 12:11 says, “Whoever works his land will have plenty of bread, but he who follows worthless pursuits lacks sense.” We shouldn’t waste our time on “pointless” activities that ultimately don’t align with our ultimate goals. This doesn’t mean we have to keep on working ourselves to the bone. Instead, we should be intentional about what we do, regardless of how productive it is, and not waste time on things and situations not serving us. When we need rest, watching TV and sitting and doing nothing is serving us. Setting time aside for self-care is serving us, and by taking care of ourselves, we’re respecting the temple and mind God has gifted us.
2 Thessalonians 3:10 says, “For even when we were with you, we would give you this command: If anyone is not willing to work, let him not eat.” Again, it first sounds like anyone who is too tired and weak to work won’t receive any food, but this is taken too literally. “Work” shouldn’t always be seen as manual labor: we should also be working and improving ourselves to become better servants for God. We shouldn’t be too stubborn and say that our work is done and we’re already fine just as we currently are. There is no benefit in that, and we’re denying ourselves the spiritual nourishment and self-growth we deserve. We should always be willing to examine ourselves and admit that we are sinful, we’re flawed, and we have progress to make in ourselves and in the world we live in.
Two verses certainly don’t cover the entire Bible, but take these two examples as inspiration for how similar verses could be for personal growth toward God and His purpose for us rather than completing a to-do list every day. Rather than God always wanting us to be productive and constantly motivated, He wants our productivity to be used wisely. We don’t have to work for the sake of working; we should want to work to be better students of God’s teachings and messengers of His Word.
God grants us rest.
Not only does God rest Himself, but one of His greatest blessings for us is rest, especially through His Son Jesus! In Matthew 11:28-30 Jesus says, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”
The Israelites spent their whole lives constantly working, and where did that leave them? They were enslaved under tyrant rulers and working even more. It was when God freed them from their physical and mental chains and allowed them freedom through Him that did they actually rest.
Jesus especially provided us rest because we no longer had to work tirelessly to redeem our sins, making sacrifices and other duties just so we were favorable in His eyes. Instead, Jesus did all that work for us. We’re already saved through Him, and that’s the greatest weight and duty to be lifted off our shoulders. Our self-worth doesn’t reside in all the work and accomplishments we have to boast to others on social media and otherwise…our worth comes from God’s love and salvation. Praise the Lord for providing us the gift of rest and comfort, as mentioned in Psalm 4:8, “In peace I will both lie down and sleep; for you alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety.”
Why must we feel so guilty for not “doing enough” in each day, for feeling lazy, for taking a break when we desperately need it? God would have designed living organisms to be fully automated machines if we were meant to live that way. Even robots need their batteries recharged at some point. Only God has continual strength and resilience in every moment, and yet even He found a moment of rest!
Take some time today to reflect upon how your thoughts might work against you when comparing yourself to others and their work. Are you finding yourself inadequate, not worthy enough in the world, or falling off the “right” path? God has made you worthy in every moment, working on a project or taking a nap or whatever else you might be doing. And when we are tired and drained, that’s when we should especially turn to Him to rest our weary spirits and replenish ourselves. Our strength and productivity are found through Him. Accept the energy as it ebbs and flows, and treat yourself well in each moment. We are blessed to rest.
When you find yourself struggling to accept lower levels of productivity, do you find the need to justify it with yourself? Where is this guilt in our output of work coming from?
Take care, and keep the faith. -Allie