Friday, February 01, 2008

Productivity is Overrated

Less than two months ago the biggest issue in the upcoming presidential race was the war in Iraq. Now, it is obviously the infamous "economy." I heard a quote that the GDP has virtually "ground to a halt." By and large, the biggest deal for us in North America is to produce, to be productive. If you're not productive, you're dead weight. It's the so-called "protestant work ethic". And not to say that there isn't something there, but it's interesting that productivity isn't the main issue when we look at the bible and how God orders life for the Hebrew people or when Jesus forms the community that will be the Church.

Instead, there are other words that seem to be much more central to life in these situations, ordered by God. For the Hebrew people, Shalom is important. While it is often translated as peace, it goes well beyond this English word. It is an all-encompassing term that speaks not only to non-violence but to health and well-being individually and communally. In the New Testament we have the word "sozo" which is often translated as "save" but it too has a much wider meaning than simply that. It also is translated as "heal" and refers not simply to physical but emotional and spiritual health. Again, it contains the idea of wholeness.

These two words are a great reminder to us, living in North America that we are called to be about something different than economic "progress" or stability. We're not simply to be concerned with the bottom line, with "productivity." We have been called to a life of wholeness, both individually and in community. On a day where we find news of 17000 jobs lost in January juxtaposed with ExxonMobil posting record profits and Microsoft pitching billions for Yahoo we have to be reminded that we're not just here to produce things, to make money but to live and to live life to its fullest. So, feel free to do the things, those completely unproductive things that make life full - like taking a nap or playing with your kids or sharing a good meal with friends...

5 comments:

notashot said...

I think that you are correct that we need to more past productivity and into Sozo and Shalom. But I would disagree about it being rooted in a protestant work ethic.

Today, their is a post modern ethic that dictates Americas thirst for productivity. We equate materialism with happiness. Productivity is a a means to consumption and therefore it is stressed.

jlee said...

Very true. Our hunger for productivity (or consumption and the loop between them) is not being held in check by anything or anyone. Your final words about taking time to play with your kids or simply relax point to a simple way for Christians to be "counter-cultural" in our productivity-addicted world.

I just posted on the word 'Hosanna' and its meaning of "please save". I didn't go into all of the details but my post connects with yours in that "save" does not refer to an other-world saving but very much so applies to here and now. I have cried "hosanna" many times in the past 48 hours. Thank God (literally) that Laurie is coming home tomorrow night!

Carn-Dog said...

don,

I'm a friend of Erik's. Anyhow how are you enjoying Bright's KOG? This was one of my favorite reads in seminary. I don't think he says much new, but the historical tidbits were helpful and I think he does a great job of organizing history in a narrative form. I found the book to be accessible.

ok...well have a good one

carney

Carn-Dog said...

don,

I'm a friend of Erik's. Anyhow how are you enjoying Bright's KOG? This was one of my favorite reads in seminary. I don't think he says much new, but the historical tidbits were helpful and I think he does a great job of organizing history in a narrative form. I found the book to be accessible.

ok...well have a good one

carney

Don said...

Dave - not necessarily "rooted" in the Protestant work ethic, but there's a correlation. And honestly, I think the thirst for productivity is more of an outgrowth of modernity, hyper-modernity if you will than necessarily "post-modern." and that's because I'm beginning to believe that very little of what we call "post-modern" is truly beyond the scope of modernism anyway.

Jeff - isn't the Hebrew language awesome? There's so much to learn from it, I'm continually amazed.

Carney - thanks for dropping in, I've seen your responses on Erik's blog and have appreciated your insight. Unfortunately, my reading of Bright's KoG has dropped off after the Intro. Not for any lack on his part, but I've been co-opted by the tyranny of the urgent and it's been lowered in my list. I'm going to get back on the horse though!