I like to be organized and efficient. (If you know me, I am sure that is no surprise to you!) I am the kind of person who plans weeks in advance, who knows what I will be preaching on in December, and who plans my annual leave out the year before. And even on a weekly scale, I plan my working week to try to get the most done in the limited time I have before me. Productivity is important to me.
But as I have been working through Deuteronomy for church, it has struck me that so much of the lifestyle of the Old Testament people of God was inefficient and unproductive. And there was good reason for that.
In an agriculture-dominated society, work is hard and long. There is no such thing as a 37.5 hour week with 2 days off in every 7. You would end the day physically tired. There is an endless amount of work to do. But in the midst of this busyness was a rhythm of life that required regular rest and regular celebration.
Three times of year you would travel to the central location for a massive party to celebrate God’s salvation and his provision in the harvest. There were also festivals you didn’t need to travel for. And every week you had a day of rest in the Sabbath. All of this was legislated in the law; you had no choice but to rest and to celebrate. There was no option to keep on working, however important your work was.
There is a lesson for us in our busy lives: being productive isn’t the whole story. Yes, we need to make the most of the gifts we have been given and realize that Jesus is coming back anytime. Yes, we don’t want to be wasteful and lazy. All true. But regular rest is a big reminder for us that it doesn’t all depend on us. If we stop working for a day, the world keeps turning. God is the one in control, not us, and it might well take us stopping for a while for us to realize that in a deep sense.
Productivity is a good thing. But stopping to pray and spending time reading the Bible, or with church and our spiritual brothers and sisters, is critically important for us. It might not seem like we are doing anything useful, but if our relationship with God is primary and glorifying Him is our top priority, then it is immensely useful.
Don’t just be productive and efficient this week. Build in time for intentional rest and prayer and celebration of God’s goodness. In reality, that will be more important than so many of the pressing things on your to-do list.