Guiding Principle of Productivity (and All of Life!): LOVE

Whats Best Next -PermanLast night I was able to finish chapter six of Matt Perman’s book What’s Best Next: How the Gospel Transforms the Way You Get Things Done (Zondervan, 2014), finding once more profitable thoughts for the way in which we as Christians are called to do our work and be productive.

In this chapter titled “Put Others’ First: Love as the Guiding Principle for All of Life,” Perman takes us to the fundamental motive that must guide us as we seek to do our best work in the best way. Not surprisingly, that motive is love (which he says chiefly shows itself in generosity). Not surprising, because as believers we know from the Word of God that this is indeed the chief virtue we have and must manifest as God’s children (1 Cor.13; Gal.5:22; 1 Tim.1:5, etc.). And because this is the heart of the commandments of God, which are the guiding standard for our lives (Matt.22:36-40). And, of course (as Perman also points out), because this is what God has shown us in His Son – His amazing, sovereign, saving love (John 3:16; 1 Jn.4:7-11).

For today I post from two sections of this chapter, and in the light of my previous post in which I was critical of Perman for neglecting the God-centered focus of the Christian life and of our work, you will understand why I do so. First this:

Hence, the overarching principle of the Christian life is that we are here to serve, to the glory of God. We are to be in this world not for what we can get out of it but for what we can give. According to the Bible, a truly productive life is lived in service of others. Being productive is not about seeking personal peace and affluence because God made us for greater goals. Jonathan Edwards nails this:

There is another that has made you, and preserves you, and provides for you, and on whom you are dependent: and He has made you for himself, and for the good of your fellow-creatures, and not only for yourself. He has placed before you higher and nobler ends than self, even the welfare of your fellow-men, and of society, and the interests of his kingdom; and for these you ought to labour and live, not only in time, but for eternity.

This is foundational to the entire Christian life: We are not out own (1 Cor.6:19). We did not create ourselves, and we did not redeem ourselves. We doubly belong to God. And God has not made us merely to seek our own good. He created us for something far greater: to seek the good of others, and of society, and his kingdom. The true Christian lives for these ends, not his own comfort and welfare (87).

Then, after giving six points about what loving others in our daily work means, Perman returns to a God-centered focus, which I deeply appreciated. Here is what he says:

There is a wrong turn we can make here. We could think that the Christian life is merely about doing good; that somehow seeking to help others would make up for the fact that we ignore God in our lives or that it is sufficient to do good for others without the motive of love for God behind our love for others.

This would be a big mistake. …If our works are to be truly productive – that is, affirmed by God at the final judgment and last forever – they need to be done with a love for God at the center. Anything else is ultimately idolatry.

One of the chief things this means is that we are to do all we do only in his power (1 Peter 4:10-11), but also as an offering to him through Jesus Christ (1 Peter 2:4).

…A great work is not given to God if God is not the great end in what you do or give. Good works without this motive of love for God may do much temporal good, which is commendable in its own right, but they will have no uiltimate spiritual or eternal value because you’ve missed the most important point – God (93-94).

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