The dreaded why question
I’ve been feeling really productive lately. I’ve been making headway in church planting, training leaders, and writing my dissertation. I’ve been getting things done! But a friend recently asked me a really simple question that took me back to the basics.
I wished he hadn’t asked me this question, which confused and convicted me:
“Why are you doing all this?”
As good and godly as my productivity sounds, it is not automatically good or godly. This why question consumed me for the next couple days.
Conviction and confusion
My confusion in answering the why question led me to 1 Timothy, where Paul gives the reason that Jesus saved him in the first place. It also tells us of Paul’s motivation for everything he did after salvation. From 1 Timothy 1:16 (emphasis added): “But I received mercy for this reason, that in me, as the foremost, Jesus Christ might display his perfect patience as an example to those who were to believe in him for eternal life.”
The light turned on
Reading this passage felt like one of those cartoons where someone has an idea or figures something out and the animated light bulb over their head flicks on. I’m assuming there was no actual light bulb over my head, but a light definitely turned on.
Why do I do what I do? What I am doing the things I’m doing?
Paul tells us that he was the “foremost” of sinners (v. 15), he was the worst of sinners, and Christ saved him to show that even a man like Paul can be given grace and saved from his sin.
I know that I am equally as sinful as Paul was. I know that Jesus saving me is just as outrageous as Jesus saving Paul. If Paul was saved for the sole purpose of displaying Christ to others so they might believe in him, then I must have been saved for the same reason. Everything Paul did, the reason for his existence after salvation, was so he might display Christ.
I have to be honest and tell you that even though the things that I’m doing are good things, my motivation was not “for the reason, that in me, as the foremost [of sinners], Jesus Christ might display his perfect patience as an example to those who were to believe in him for eternal life.” Somewhere along the line the reason I was doing these things was because I “needed to do these things” —it was a job.
Productive for Jesus
When we are “being productive” devoid of the purpose of displaying Jesus Christ to those who might believe, we are being productive only in the secular sense of the word. When the answer to the question of “Why do we do what we do?” is “To glorify God by displaying Christ to the world,” then we have just experienced a godly productivity.
Planting a church, training leaders, and finishing my dissertation can all be godly things, but they are not godly things in and of themselves. They must find their purpose and motivation in Jesus or else they are not godly, and ultimately not productive for the kingdom of God.
Don’t assume your productivity is godly productivity.
Ask yourself the why question.