The following is a guest post by Jess Mohr. Jess is a freelance writer and editor in East Tennessee. She blogs at The Crux of the Matter and serves her church as an ACBC-certified biblical counselor.
What’s My Motivation?
Our motivations driving productivity are vast and varied: a desire for pleasure that maximizes playtime, security that creates a financial nest egg, comfort that chases self-help’s elusive dream of ease, peace that seeks to stay afloat amidst life’s pressures. As believers, we seek biblical productivity, ultimately motivated by the person and work of Christ. We were made “new creature[s]” to efficiently and effectively accomplish many good works by the Spirit’s power with the resources He so richly provides (2 Corinthians 5:17).
Faithfully fulfilling our various roles to yield this holy fruit requires wise stewardship to make the most of our time (Ephesians 5:16). Our hearts’ motivations lay the foundation of this pursuit. God cares about the heart. Even mundane tasks carry redemptive value for the believer when they are pursued according to His principles and for His glory. With this proper theological framework, culling practical help from secular sources is a wonderful common grace that can serve us well. But we must be careful to guard our hearts from these external influences that can incite our residual flesh.
The Greedy-Eyed Monster
Greed is certainly a deep-seated motivation. Dr. Paul Tautges defines it as “the heart’s craving that results in the sinful accumulation of things.” The discontented heart is never satisfied, always wanting more. Some may be unable to accumulate, but they still covet. Jesus warned us to be on “‘guard against every form of greed; for not even when one has an abundance does his life consist of his possessions’” (Luke 12:15). Greed infectiously taints everything it touches. It can make idols out of the afore-mentioned desires of pleasure, security, comfort, and peace.
This inward, inordinate longing most often manifests itself with money as the means of procurement. The yearning for financial accrual strips our dependency on God as we idolatrously forsake Him to serve our own thrones (Colossians 3:5). But we can also do this with our time. We covetously claw and clutch anything that serves us. Since we are no longer characterized by these sins, believers must strive to extinguish the embers that glow. That means being aware of secular systems and methodologies that may encourage a subtle adoption of worldly views that would entice the flesh to be stingy with our time.
As a newlywed, I embraced the culinary facet of domestic felicity. Grazing on peanut butter crackers and microwave popcorn no longer sufficed. And like the fishes and loaves, our grocery bill multiplied. I stumbled upon the world of couponing which quickly descended into rummaging around the city’s recycle bin for these little paper discounts. I never became an extreme couponer (some of you may already disagree at this point), but my shopping revolved around these deals.
I felt like the epitome of biblical industry and thrift, but my flesh’s proclivity toward greed began its gradually contaminating work: impatience with the clerk’s ignorance of store policy, irritation toward the lady ahead who may not leave the five shampoo bottles needed to score the deal, resentment toward my husband’s financial decisions, wrongly appraised through my warped value system shaped by clipping fifty-cent redemptions. The more I saved marginally, the more I chafed at spending altogether. The miserliness lurking in my heart was emerging, and as the mental tally wouldn’t shut off, the ground was tilled for bitterness and discontent to be sown.
In the same way, our helpful time-management systems can also cultivate an environment conducive to inflaming our greedy desire to wrest control of our lives away from the Lord.
Time Hack Attack
There’s a reason books on time management are located in the self-help section. The pathway of these books typically leads to the great throne of self, so we would be foolish to not take pains to thoughtfully consider the practical help we’re gleaning. We must be discerning to ensure that certain latent assumptions within any systems are not also extracted.
Adopting efficiency techniques can accomplish more good deeds, but the pace can pack a schedule so tightly with our agenda that interruptions brought by a sovereign God result in sinful irritation. People can quickly become objects that hinder rather than priorities to pursue. My pastor once remarked that our heart response to an interruption instantly reveals who we are truly serving. Thankfully, we can use these red flags as opportunities to assess and repent where needed.
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Laying out my agenda with my intricate paper-based GTD system in my two-page daily Franklin Covey can reinforce the false narrative that I’m in charge of my day. Just as we can be deceived into thinking that our money is our own, so, too, can we with our time. While we are certainly responsible to be good stewards of both, we need to simultaneously recognize our daily dependence on God and remember that we have been bought with a price. We are not our own, and His will drives both our motivations and agendas (1 Corinthians 6:19-20).
An intolerance of empty moments may also emerge. We may imagine we’re diligently redeeming every second, but ulterior motivations can be betrayed by our symptoms:
- impatience with people who take longer than we determine they should
- shifting at night from reflecting on the day in confession and thanksgiving to greedily eyeing tomorrow’s time opportunities with endless tasks to accomplish
- a sense of wasted time in group prayers that meander; relatedly, condensed personal prayer time to move onto more quantitative tasks
- frustration with the slow process of sanctification in tangled, complex sins that take considerable time and effort to tackle
- alternatively prioritizing easier “busy work” over difficult responsibilities
As with my crazy couponing, the misappraisal of my time expenditures can create a distorted system for evaluation. Strenuous self-examination is therefore necessary as the surface may not always reveal an accurate reality. For example, checking in with someone by texting instead of calling because we’re seeking to limit the time is not necessarily sinful, but it can be if we’re avariciously hoarding our time. This is why we must always be checking our motives against biblical principles.
Our solution begins with the gospel. Christ’s death and resurrection have broken the enslavement to greed and idolatry in the believer’s life. Empowered by the Holy Spirit, we are now “putting to death the deeds of the body” (Romans 8:13), waging war against these dispositions that seek to insidiously corrupt our work for the Lord. God graciously gives a biblical pattern for this eradication of sin. Laying aside the wrong motives, we renew our minds according to the truth found in His Word and step forward in faith through Christ-like obedience (Ephesians 4:22-24; Colossians 3:8-14).
This “Put Off, Renew, Put On” command (or PORPO, for short) may seem basic, but it’s the key to change. We must “porpo” our sin.
We can relinquish the fruitless pursuit of desperately grasping at other idols because of the truth that our comfort, pleasure, peace, and provision are now fulfilled in Christ. We’re liberated to be generous with our time, fully depending on the One who owns it. He is our perfect example who exemplified this lavish, sacrificial, giving spirit. His inner heart attitude, “although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bondservant” (Philippians 2:6-7). Though He is God, Jesus didn’t have to posture; He wasn’t close-fisted, clawing, and clinging to His rights or to secure anything for Himself. He entrusted Himself to the Father, and we should follow in His steps as we seek to be wise stewards of our time.