Don’t Do the Work: A Call To Being Unproductive

There’s a common saying regarding eating healthy within our culture today. Some of us have even made it a mantra to live by.

“You are what you eat.”

In other words, you become what you consume. It’s why my dad would always tell me, “If you eat anymore of those Starburst candies you’ll probably turn into one.” Now into adulthood I’m worried I might turn into a homemade mocha.

We think of this almost exclusively in terms of food but I believe the implications reach far beyond mere calories.

As I think about my own life and the direction it’s headed, I think I’m often defined by what’s consuming me rather than what I’m consuming. For the majority of my days I’m consumed with becoming a highly proficient-efficient-productive, machine.

This isn’t all bad. I can pump out a lot of work in two or three or ten hours when I have limited distractions. Give me a to-do list and I’ll get you some check marks. I’ve wired my brain to only know completion—anything else is failure. In a world where everyone has excuses for why they’re not able to get the work done, I’ve honored Steven Pressfield’s call on us to “do the work” while slaying the dragon of resistance.

And yet, I remain unsatisfied. In the midst of knocking out checklist after checklist and building a platform that I can release a book on top of, I find myself losing my soul. What’s consuming me is my ability to “do the work” and over time this mindset becomes my identity.

Most of us are living as practical humanists who believe that all problems can be solved if we only have a little more courage and work ethic. So we establish habits to help us get more done. And all this is fleeting and meaningless as Solomon tells us. It’s a chasing after the wind.

Christ didn’t call us to live by defining ourselves with how much we can accomplish in any day, month, year, or lifetime.

This call away from identities that are built around what we do rather than who we are begins at The Lord’s Table where we share in the broken body of Christ. In consuming Christ we tell ourselves that we are not defined by what we do or don’t do. We are defined by the One who gave His life that we might live for Him.

Before we are productive or platform builders or highly efficient machines that do the work, we are first sons and daughters of the King. Each of us at some point comes to a place of recognition that we cannot do this life on our own. We’ll always have this pressing need to be more productive, even if we’re the most productive person on the planet. Where must the line be drawn? We’ll never know.

Rather than pushing us toward a higher level of ability, I think God calls us to rest in the comfort of knowing we’re not capable of achieving significance and success in this life without Him.

We consume Christ because by proclaiming His life and death we are proclaiming what Paul says is “foolishness” to the world (1st Corinthians 1:18-31).

It is out of our weakness that Christ works fully.

It is out of our inability to “do the work” that Christ proclaims His power.

By sacrificing our need to be productive and efficient we can allow our boast to be in Christ, who pours His love on us despite our failure to measure up to the world’s standards. Yes, we are what we eat, but we choose to consume Christ who calls us away from individual pursuit into a relationship of grace, and rest for the needy.

We will never be proficient, efficient, or productive enough. All this pursuit is fleeting.

“Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.”

We are not defined by what we do.

There’s a host of hurts we come across
None of which alike
From the air inside the birthing room
To the darkness where we die
Though I feel I’m just as strong as any man I know
I’m not able on my own

Carry round the secrets
Only heaven knows
Crawl into our darkened rooms where only victims go
Though I feel I’m strong enough to carry all this load
I’m not able on my own

All my actions, false or true
Selfish motives I will use
We were born with knives in hand
Trained to kill our fellow man
If we’re not better than the rest
How will children do their best
Find your patience, find your truth
Love is all we have to lose

I’m not able on my own

(Image: Janette)