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The Secret of Productivity

“A very important man went to a country far away to be made a king and then to return home. So he called ten of his servants and gave a coin to each servant. He said, ‘Do business with this money until I get back.’”


“When he returned home, he said, ‘Call those servants who have my money so I can know how much they earned with it.’


/“The first servant came and said, ‘Sir, I earned ten coins with the one you gave me.’ The king said to the servant, ‘Excellent! You are a good servant. Since I can trust you with small things, I will let you rule over ten of my cities.’” . . .  LUKE 19:11-17 abridged


You know where this goes. The last servant who simply hid the money responded, “I was afraid of you, because you are a hard man. You take out what you did not put in and reap what you did not sow.”  LUKE 19:21


Ouch. He’s reprimanded and his money is taken from him and given to the most productive servant, despite pushback from the other consternated servants. But the theme is clear: productivity.


The focus is on God's demand for productivity, or ROI—Return On Investment.


If we’re honest, most of us bristle at the idea of some sort of “spiritual performance review” regarding our Kingdom-effectiveness. Perhaps some of us have endured performance reviews painfully done or less developmentally-centered and more punitive.


This has always been a difficult parable for me. I have to lean heavily into grace on this one because I easily slip into a “performance-based/transactional” relationship with God. One of the most troubling scriptures for me has been Jesus’ words, “To whom much is given, much is required.”


It’s not that I think I have an abundance of gifts and talents, but more about context: I live in a wealthy country, I’m a white male in a privileged majority, a healthy marriage, more Bibles and books than I need, access to the world through the internet, and never a thought about clean water or available food. That’s a lot that’s been given to me. The requirement-part of that proverb feels intimidating at times.


Therefore, I need boatloads of grace. But that still doesn’t excuse me from what God wants to see produced in my life. And that message regularly sobers me up in this consumer-drunk culture.


But here’s the secret of the parable: the third servant acted in his nervous, risk-averse, scarcity-driven way because of his distorted view of the king. And because of how he judged the king, he received judgment in like manner. Or as Jesus put it earlier, “In the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.”  MATTHEW 7:2


What if we deeply and actively viewed God as generous, kind, abundant in mercy, self-sacrificial, and, well, like Jesus himself? How might that change the way we invest our lives?


And what if we leaders not only experienced this ourselves but taught our followers this unique interplay of grace and responsibility given our grasp of God’s character?


It could change everything in our corner of the world.


Dave Workman | The Elemental Group


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