Slothfulness is an attitude of indifference toward the time, talent, resources, and opportunities God gives us. Such an attitude results in poverty and dissatisfaction in this life and a loss of rewards in the next life as the parable of the talents reminds us in Matthew 25:14-30. Here are five suggestions about how to develop productivity in your life:
- Clearly define your purpose in life. (Ephesians 5:15-17)
Purpose is the engine that drives our lives. Without a clearly defined purpose for living, one has little motivation to harness his God-given resources. Why should I get up early, work hard, sharpen my skills, and save my money, unless I have a clear reason for doing so? The most unproductive people I know are those who could never articulate their purpose, objectives, and goals in life. Their sloth is symptomatic of their lack of purpose.
- Spend your time effectively. (Psalm 90:12)
The most productive people are those who treasure every minute of life as a gift from God. They do not measure time by the decades, years, or even months, but by the hours, minutes, and seconds. They are constantly asking themselves the question: “What is the most productive thing I could be doing now?”
Valuing time is a biblical concept. Moses reminded us of the brevity of life. Seventy years, normally—eighty years perhaps. In light of the brevity of life, he prayed: “So teach us to number our days that we may present to Thee a heart of wisdom” (Psalm 90:12).
James echoed the same idea when he reminds us that our life is like a mist that appears for just a moment and then vanishes: “Yet you do not know what your life will be like tomorrow. You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away.”
Before you go to bed at night, take a moment and jot down the six most important things you can accomplish the next day. Then, you will have a plan of action that will focus your energies on the most important tasks. Don’t be discouraged if you don’t complete the list. At least you will have concentrated your efforts on your highest priorities.
- Manage your financial resources according to God’s plan. (Proverbs 6:6-8; 21:20; 22:7)
In the book of Proverbs you will see that laziness and poverty go hand in hand. The sluggard’s poverty is not only a result of his unwillingness to work, but is also a result of his failure to follow God’s wisdom about money.
Ignoring biblical teachings about money results in financial bondage. And such bondage is a hindrance to achieving one’s life purpose. People who are constantly worried about paying this week’s rent are rarely concerned about long-term goals and objectives. Instead, as Thoreau said, “they are sentenced to living lives of quiet desperation.”
- Discipline yourself for a productive life. (1 Corinthians 9:27)
Let’s admit it. Most of us are basically lazy. Given a choice, we will usually take the easy way out. Such a realization is necessary if we are going to achieve our life purpose. Just like the Apostle Paul, we too must continually work to master our bodies.
Maybe you have a burning desire to live a productive life, but your life is in such disarray you do not know where to begin. Furthermore, you doubt you have the self-discipline to pull it off anyway. Where should you begin? Several years ago, John MacArthur wrote Practical Suggestions for Getting Out of the Rut of Slothfulness:
- Start small. Start with your room. Clean it, then keep it clean. When something is out of place, train yourself to put it where it belongs. Then extend that discipline of neatness to the rest of your home.
- Be on time. That may not sound very spiritual, but it’s important. If you’re supposed to be somewhere at a specific time, be there on time! Develop the ability to discipline your desires, activities, and demands so that you can arrive on time.
- Do the hardest job first. Doing that will prevent the hardest jobs from being left undone.
- Organize your life. Plan the use of your time; don’t just react to circumstances. Use a calendar and make a daily list of things you need to accomplish. If you don’t control your time, everything else will!
- Accept correction. Correction helps make you more disciplined because it shows you what you need to avoid. Don’t avoid criticism; accept it gladly.
- Practice self-denial. Learn to say no to your feelings. Occasionally deny yourself things that are all right just for the purpose of mastering yourself. Learn to do what you know to be right even if you don’t feel like doing it. Cultivating discipline in the physical realm will help us become disciplined in our spiritual lives.
- Define “productivity” correctly. (Matthew 16:26)
Make sure you are focusing your time, talents, and resources on that which is really important in life. Ask the average Christian to prioritize major objectives in life— making money, being successful in business, spending time with family and friends, and serving God—and most will rank “serving God” at the top of the list. Yet, our actions betray our words. Our relationship with God is usually the recipient of our leftover time, money, and abilities.
To have a truly productive life, we must expend our efforts in those areas which will have the greatest return. And since the Bible teaches that everything on this earth will be consumed by fire, doesn’t it make sense to spend our lives on that which will last for eternity? Jesus put it this way in Matthew 16:26: “For what will a man be profited, if he gains the whole world, and forfeits his soul?”