Sometimes our culture takes a narrow view of productivity. We think of productivity in terms of a job or work and then we equate work to earning money. The reality is that all productivity is not “job” based nor is it always an exchange for money. One of the clearest examples of this would be a stay-at-home parent. Most stay-at-home parents do not exchange their efforts for money, but that does not mean they are not being productive or that what they are doing does not have value. In reality, they are creating long lasting value, more precious than money.
Though money is a tool that is often necessary for us to survive, there are other benefits to living a productive life. The Apostle Paul wrote a letter to the church at Thessalonica that addressed this issue and he offered some reasons why being productive was important. He said:
“And now, dear brothers and sisters, we give you this command in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ: Stay away from all believers who live idle lives and don’t follow the tradition they received from us. For you know that you ought to imitate us. We were not idle when we were with you. We never accepted food from anyone without paying for it. We worked hard day and night so we would not be a burden to any of you. We certainly had the right to ask you to feed us, but we wanted to give you an example to follow. Even while we were with you, we gave you this command: “Those unwilling to work will not get to eat.” Yet we hear that some of you are living idle lives, refusing to work and meddling in other people’s business. We command such people and urge them in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ to settle down and work to earn their own living. As for the rest of you, dear brothers and sisters, never get tired of doing good.” 2 Thessalonians 3:6-13 NLT
Part of what he had to say was addressing those that were not producing and the consequences of that, but he also was reminding them of the value of working or being productive. There are at least four reasons Paul gives why being productive is important.
You help others
Paul says that they worked hard and paid for their own food so they were not a burden to the others. He understood that if they did not have another person to feed, they would be able to better care for their own needs. Each of us understands the value of being in a situation where everyone contributes what they are able to contribute. When that happens, the burden is lightened for everyone else. When you are productive, it not only benefits you, it also benefits others because it lightens their load.
It sets an example
Paul said they worked hard and provided for themselves to set an example for others to follow. He knew that other people would use his life as a pattern and he wanted to give them a good pattern to follow. Each of us are setting an example with the lives that we live. People are determining their work habits and productivity levels based on what they see in us. We have influence on our friends and co-workers, but we especially have influence on our families. Our children are developing concepts of productivity based on what they see modeled before them. Being productive sets an example for them to follow.
It provides for others
Whether your area of work includes an exchange for money or not, your productivity provides for others. Working provides food and shelter for you and your family. Parenting provides care for your children. Paying taxes provides schools for others to have an opportunity to be educated. Productivity produces things that provide for yourself and others. Being productive may produce money, but it also produces other things like a strong family unit. Productivity brings provision.
It is good
It appears that some of the people were discouraged because others were not being productive. Paul finishes his instructions by telling those doing good to not be discouraged by doing good. Don’t allow those who are unwilling to keep you from being willing. We cannot correct the poor choices of others. What we can do is continue making good choices in spite of the choices of others. We cannot allow the poor choices of some to cause us to make poor choices as well. Being productive is good.
There are times when each of us faces discouragement and frustration and we may question whether what we are doing even matters. Being productive always matters. You are making a difference. Maybe you have experienced some other benefits of being productive. Feel free to share those in the comments so that others can be encouraged. Never get tired of doing good.