When Productivity Becomes an Idol

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The following is a guest post by Emma of My Redemption for His Glory.

Emma is a Reformed Christian blogger who is on a mission to discover what it means to do blogging & entrepreneurship in a truly Biblical way. You can find more of her writings on her website. If you would like hear more about what she’s been learning, as well as what resources she has recently benefited from, then sign up to receive her special newsletter. Emma also loves to connect with fellow believers on Instagram.

Have you ever idolized productivity?

I know I sure have.

But, before you answer, you may be wondering what exactly it would look like. How are we to know if we are bowing down to this obscure golden idol of productivity?

Well, here’s my experience for you to learn from…

Discovering My Idolatry

The first warning sign came when I realized that I would typically only be motivated to do something (specifically, related to my work) after watching YouTube videos from secular business/productivity gurus.

Instead of having a God-focused outlook, I was very intent on simply getting into ‘the zone’ and internally applying the mind-tricks the videos were promoting.

Back then, I blew those warning signs off; I didn’t think they were very important to address at the time. And besides, it seemed to be helping me get things done, so I wasn’t about to kibosh my progress.

Then, early this year, I found out about a website called Redeeming Productivity through one of my blog subscriptions. This piqued my curiosity and I decided to check out a few episodes of the podcast.

Which episodes did I listen to?

  1. Prayer and the Productive Christian
  2. What Makes Christian Productivity Unique? ➡This was the one that rocked my world. My view of productivity shall never be the same.

And that’s when it clicked for me. That was when I realized that my dependence on the particular videos, articles, podcasts, etc… that I’d been regularly consuming (usually daily!) was getting to be unhealthy.

I didn’t have a good, Christ-honoring relationship with my work. In that moment, I finally understood my subtle addiction for what it was.

Now, let’s talk about the sin aspect of this whole thing…

Calling Out the Sneaky Sin

Obviously, I was in an unhealthy state, but more to the point, I was disguising the sin of idolatry by deceiving myself into thinking that it was beneficial.

It was an idol I didn’t really know I possessed until I was confronted with what Christian productivity ought to look like.

Before I would have just ignored it or been completely oblivious to it. But now, it was glaringly apparent to me. I had really let this being-productive, working-from-home, building-my-own-online-business, being-a-self-motivated-entrepreneur thing get out of hand.

How was I going to fix it?

First, I knew that this was something I could only conquer with the help of the Holy Spirit. I had to begin re-learning reliance on Him, rather than on those ‘experts’ I once looked up to.

That meant sacrifices had to be made, and the process of reforming my ways was surely not without struggle. There were so many times where I had to take a step back from whatever I was doing to simply remind myself of the big picture in order to get past that brick wall of resistance (from my flesh).

Implementing a New Productivity Goal

Even though it has not been without its difficulties, a new goal has steadily been gaining ground in my heart. Namely, it is: to devote to destruction the idol of productivity.

Let me take a moment to explain where that phrasing originated from…

When I first read through the entire Bible, something particularly stuck out to me in the Old Testament. It was God’s specific command for certain things that were abominable in His sight to be utterly destroyed.

The term ‘devote(d) to destruction’ is used on numerous occasions in the ESV. Here are a few examples for you to observe in your Bible: Exodus 22:20, Leviticus 27:29, Numbers 21:3, Deuteronomy 2:34, 3:6, 7:2, 7:26, 20:17, Joshua 6:17-18, 8:26.

It means to set apart (for total annihilation) [something] as an offering to the LORD. Whenever Yahweh called for this particular kind of destruction of something or someone, it was meant to be complete & irreversible. It was a sort of sacrifice of devotion to God.

And that is exactly the heart-attitude I want to have in this situation.

I want to be serious and intentional about killing this idol. This is not something I can passively battle and hope to win without any sort of effort being made on my part. I must comit to devoting this idol to destruction.

As a Christian, it is my ambition to mortify every sin, that I may increasingly conform to the likeness of Christ (Romans 8:29). That’s a lot easier said than done, though, as I’m sure you can imagine. So, on a more practical note, let me share with you the three things I did almost right away as an act of submission to the conviction of the Holy Spirit.

3 Things I Did (Immediately) to Start Killing the Idol

  1. I unsubscribed from SO MANY email lists (of copious blogging/business/YouTube/speaking/writing/you-name-it gurus).
  2. I unfollowed social media accounts (on Instagram & Twitter mostly) that weren’t pushing me closer to the Lord.
  3. I unsubscribed from multiple YouTube channels & (business/blogging-related) podcasts which were only distracting me from my true calling & responsibility as a slave of Christ.

I’ve already found that taking these seemingly insubstantial actions have made a world of difference. Now that I’ve essentially cut myself off from those influences, I have found that my thoughts and overall mindset has been massively affected.

Was it difficult at first to ‘say goodbye’? Yeah. It was.

But once I remembered my real purpose in doing this, that was enough motivation to finally sever those ties.

Will I ever re-subscribe or follow those people again?

I suppose we’ll see in time, but for now, I am perfectly content with staying away.

What I really needed was some space (and, shall we call it, ‘virtual solitude’?) in order to develop a strong Biblically-based worldview on my own. Granted, I have definitely been benefitting from resources such as Redeeming Productivity to help me along as I try to exercise discernment in this area of life. But my general rule-of-thumb has been to look through the lens of Scripture itself.

My 3 Biggest Goals for the Future

I know there’s still so much room for growth in this area of my life, so here are some of my action steps as I look forward to the future…

1. Learn what God’s Word actually says

I want to become a good student of the Scriptures in general so that I may bring every thought into conformity with it—not just the ones that relate to the realm of business or productivity or working, but everything in life.

2. Actively build a truly Biblical view of productivity.

This time, I want to seek it out. Instead of being passive in my learning journey, I hope to search the Scriptures whenever a question pops up. My aim is to be reliant upon the Word of God alone when trying to understand these things. (I already know that will require a lot more referring back to the Bible throughout the day!)

3. Find others who are looking for the truth (in the area of productivity, business, entrepreneurship, blogging, etc.), too, and spread the message as I learn for myself how to do these things to the glory of God.

This is actually the entire purpose of my blog now. I’m hoping to offer truly Biblical advice to Christian bloggers/entrepreneurs who have had enough of the secular stuff.

A Practical Encouragement for You

In conclusion, may I leave you with this encouragement?

Pay attention to the sort of people you’re listening to on a regular basis. It really does matter who you follow. The effects of their influence may be subtle, but they are there.

Be on the lookout for good, solid, Biblical instruction, but most importantly, never replace the Word of God with anything of mere man.

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1 comment
  • Great read, since college I always felt something wrong watching these productivity videos on YouTube. I believe some have actually helped me, but some have taken my attention away from Christ. Looking to be enlightened by the word and pray to walk in the right path.

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