Productivity for the Glory of God
Calvin, Kuyper, Newport, and Rose on Work and Productivity
What if you could take control of every minute of your day? What if you could make the most of your time for the glory of God? What if you could abound in productivity and work hard, but without sacrificing family time and flexibility?
After a Covid lockdown, months of online learning and teaching, video editing, and tech-work to enable the live-stream of our weekly church services—along with normal Sunday teaching duties—I needed a vacation.
Let’s be honest, a vacation with four kids under the age of ten isn’t exactly a vacation. What Daytona Beach, Florida, provided, however, was a beach (obviously) and a necessary change of scenery. This was a time when I could evaluate my life, think, and read.
In my time of reflection, I came to realize that if I wanted to flourish in ministry, I needed to organize my life. The Christian school that my church oversees was about to add a High School, and we determined it would be centered around discipling and equipping young people for serving in their local churches. So, along with 2.5 hours of Bible classes every day at the Junior High level, I was adding an extra hour of class daily.
I wanted to maximize my life and priorities for the glory of God, but this meant I would have to make some big changes. More on that later.
Calvin and Work Ethic
Strong work ethic has always been in the Reformed DNA. John Calvin humorously remarked that we are like a “useless block of wood” if we feel “called to laziness” (Inst 3:10:650).
Under Calvin’s rule, Geneva became the center of the Reformation, sending out pastors to the rest of Europe. His emphasis on hard work gave birth to modern-day capitalism. To Calvin, money was not evil, nor was it ultimate. It was a blessing from God to those who labor with their hands to provide for themselves and their family.
Calvin believed hard work was pleasing to God,
We know that men were created for the express purpose of being employed in labor of various kinds, and that no sacrifice is more pleasing to God than when every man applies diligently to his own calling and endeavors to live in such a manner as to contribute to the general advantage (Commentary on a Harmony of the Evangelists 2: 143).
John Calvin taught that, whether a person is a king or flips hamburgers, “no work is too high or low that it is not blessed by God. No task will be so sordid and base, provided you obey your calling in it, that it will not shine and be reckoned very precious in God’s sight (Inst 3. 10. 6).”
Depression, anxiety, and discontentment flourish when Christ is rejected and slothfulness reigns. The Genevan Reformer believed that Christ and hard work were the antidotes to misery and unhappiness,
The best way, therefore, to maintain a peaceful life is when each one is intent upon the duties of his own calling, carries out the commands which the Lord has given, and devotes himself to these tasks; when the farmer is busy with the work of cultivation, the workman carries on his trade, and in this way each keeps within his proper limits. As soon as men turn aside from this, everything is thrown into confusion and disorder (Commentary on 1 Thess. 4:11).
God Loves Work
In Genesis 1:1, God revealed Himself to be a worker (cf. Ps 8:3). He worked six days and rested the seventh—not because He was tired, but to enjoy the work that He had done. God created Adam and Eve to work just like Him—He immediately blessed them with the opportunity to labor for His glory by tending the garden (Gen. 2:15).
In Genesis 3, God cursed the ground because of their disobedience. Notice the “ground” is cursed by God, not work itself. Like marriage, work is a gift that humanity should participate in and enjoy, even after the Fall.
God loves work. He not only showed His love for work in the act of creation, but He does so in the act of Providence as well. He is wisely and daily working “all things for good” for those who love Him (Ro. 8:28). Jesus came to earth to work the Father’s will, and He lives in Heaven to work as our Intercessor. The Spirit works to exhort us, encourage us, and remind us of all that Christ has said. Therefore, knowing this Trinitarian love for work, Paul wrote,
Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ. —Colossians 3:23-24
Commenting on these verses, F.F. Bruce writes, “Christian slaves—or Christian employees today—have the highest of all motives for faithful and conscientious performance of duty; they are above all else servants of Christ, and will work first and foremost so as to please Him.”
Productivity to the Glory of God
As I mentioned above, my life was about to change drastically. Adding more Bible classes meant more Bible study, class preparation, and grading. I needed to squeeze more productivity out of my life, but I had a problem: disorganization. I could no longer afford to simply “keep my head above water.” I realized that I needed to attack life head on, rather than alow it to hit me.
I made three major changes to my life.
I stumbled upon author and blogger Cal Newport, efficiency-master. Though coming from a pragmatic and secular perspective, he helped me recognize the necessity of “Deep Work” and block scheduling. His insights on “Deep Work” taught me to seek depth in my teaching and preparation through a distractionless workspace: turn the phone and internet off, and think deeply about the subject matter—for hours at a time.
He also taught me a strategy for block scheduling. Now, instead of letting my day attack me, I break each day down into 30-minute intervals, accounting for each responsibility I have throughout the day. I schedule phone breaks, lunch, and even a short nap. This ensures that I get as much work done as possible, while also allowing me to spend 5pm-bedtime with my family.
The third change I made was my morning routine. Reagan Rose of Redeeming Productivity taught me to keep the phone off and drink water when I wake up to read my Bible and pray. He also taught me the importance of the early morning regimine in our overall productivity throughout the day. A good start to the day contributes to good work throughout the day. I totally agree.
As Reagan Rose tweeted, “My goal is simple: I want to live a meaningful life for the glory of God.”
Abraham Kuyper wisely wrote,
Whatever man may stand, whatever he may do, to whatever he may apply his hand— in agriculture, in commerce, and in industry, or his mind, in the world of art, and science—he is, in whatsoever it may be, constantly standing before the face of God. And above all, he has to aim at the glory of his God.
TheoBros, be sure your strong work ethic and productivity don’t become a point of pride for you. Instead, be productive to make the most of Christ in all of life.
Some helpful resources:
Reagan Rose, Redeeming Productivity
Cal Newport, Deep Work
Tim Challies, Do More Better
James Clear, Atomic Habits