I grew up in a very pragmatic household. Questions around the dinner table lovingly ranged from “What did you learn today?” to “What do you have left on your to-do list?”

This was a good way to be raised. It meant that I grew up thinking and doing, 2 modes of activity that are oft woefully neglected in the modern American culture in which I now find my adult self. I’m grateful for it, as it has allowed me to lead a team of young people to significant personal growth + professional excellence.

However, I have been musing over this in the last few weeks, realizing I perhaps placed ‘productive’ a little high on the list of virtues God wants me to pursue. Some days, I feel like a failure if I haven’t done enough things…even if I haven’t done anything wrong or simply spent ‘too much time’ talking to other people.

God delights in using us for His glory, but He primarily asks us to do so through very specific ways.

First & foremost, “love the Lord your God” is at the top of the list + in a classically Biblical sense, succeeds in illuminating the rest of the list very clearly. For, if we truly love God, a doing love, an active love, then we will naturally fall into loving our neighbor, who is made in His image. We love Him, so we seek justice for wrongs + wish mercy upon the remorseful. In Him, we find our contentment + joy, in putting our hearts in a posture of faith, in promoting hope, and acts of service and love. If all we are is merely useful, we miss the point.

Paul makes this plain in his letter to the Philippians: “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. What you have learned & received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you” (Phil. 4:8–9).

Paul doesn’t put ‘productive’ on his list. I don’t know about you, but the next time my to-do list has a pitiful number of items crossed-off–when I feel like I haven’t been productive enough–I will endeavor to measure myself to His standards instead of mine.