How to be Productive According to the Bible


  • Author Matthew Burgon-Parr
  • Published March 23, 2024
  • Word count 676

Depending on your line of work, you may feel that the business world’s current obsession with ‘increased productivity’ is giving you ‘productivity anxiety’. In economic terms, increased productivity is always seen as a good thing: it creates higher wages, aids economic growth, increases tax revenue and generally raises living standards; but it can also be the cause of stress and anxiety. More importantly, what about our spiritual life? After all, it’s the only thing that matters. Let’s take a look at what the Bible has to say.

The Book of Genesis makes it clear that we have a contract with God to look after His creation; God expects us to be productive.

‘And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth.’ Genesis 1:26

When God created the Earth it was waiting in readiness for our labor to make it productive.

‘…for the Lord God had not caused it to rain upon the earth, and there was not a man to till the ground.’ Genesis 2:5

Our world of global commerce and bewildering technological advances may seem very different from the agricultural economy of biblical times, but we are still the stewards of God’s creation, no matter how sophisticated we may feel ourselves to be. God expects us to work to the best of our abilities, to be productive in the service of others, because by doing so we are serving God.

‘Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.’ Colossians 3:23-24

God rewards productivity but productivity requires application and perseverance; the Old Testament has this advice concerning how to accomplish the best productivity.

‘Plant your seed in the morning and keep busy all afternoon, for you don’t know if profit will come from one activity or another – or maybe both.’ Ecclesiastes 11:6

Jesus gave us the parable of the talents (Matthew25: 14-30) in which he makes it clear that lack of productivity, choosing to bury one's God-given talents, will be punished. Jesus is reiterating, in parable form, an idea found throughout the Old Testament.

‘Whoever is slack in his work is a brother to him who destroys.’ Proverbs18:9

The crucial point about productivity, however, is that it must always be in the service of others, not for our own aggrandizement. In his letter to Timothy, Saint Paul puts it like this:

‘As for the rich in this present age, charge them not to be haughty, nor to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly provides us with everything to enjoy. They are to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share, thus storing up treasure for themselves as a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of that which is truly life.’ 1 Timothy 6:17-19

At the start of this piece, I mentioned that many of us may feel ‘productivity anxiety’: when we push ourselves too hard, we may reach the point where we are ‘burnt out’; this is not what God requires of us. God wants us to be productive but He also wants us to be happy and to do so we must rest. Observing the Sabbath does not mean that we must never do any work whatsoever on a Sunday but, as Jesus made clear (Matthew12: 9-14) it concerns those times when we stop working to rest and refresh ourselves in the presence of God.

We were put on this earth to work, to be productive. Throughout history, Christians have wrestled with the problem of how to be productive, in the secular world of work, and yet still serve God.

Matthew is a writer at Christian Journal Co.

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