dord (dôrd), n. density of mind; chiefly exhibited by one who attempts to demonstrate supposed knowledge --adj. dord'ish


Productivity and Fruitfulness

Our culture talks a lot about productivity. We Christians do too -- at least, I do. Let me give a recent personal example: I wasn't as productive over Christmas break as I had planned to be. True statement. Disappointing, too, considering I have had to play some catch-up since then. So yes, it's disappointing in a sense, yet I don't regret the way I spent my time over break. Why? As I've jokingly told some people over the last week, I suppose that to be more productive I should've spent less time with family and friends. (After all, it's only Christmastime.)

Bottom line: yes, the way I chose to spend my time was less productive than it could've been. But was it less fruitful?

I've been starting to ponder the difference between productivity and fruitfulness. Have you ever noticed that the Bible talks a whole lot more about one than the other? But wait, maybe that's just due to the translators' choice for English wording. I don't have the academic credentials to definitively state otherwise, but I don't think the difference is that simple for one reason: the English words aren't considered to be synonymous, and translators pick up on such things.

I think the difference is more than just semantics.

Trying to measure the effects of our choices is difficult, in some ways even impossible. But here's my thought: we view productivity as generally measurable, while fruitfulness often isn't (not in the short term, anyway). Because of this, I think the American tendency to strive for measurable results pushes us as Christians to give more thought and effort to our productivity than to our fruitfulness.

Am I saying that productivity is bad? Or that I will never again plan out ways to be productive? No and no. Productivity is good. But I think that if it's not sought in tandem with fruitfulness, it becomes ultimately worthless.

Unless you're in a planning meeting, simply spending time with people -- accomplishing nothing in particular -- is not done to be productive. (Either that, or relationships are viewed for their business potential in some kind of what-will-I-be-able-to-get-out-of-this-person-later attitude.) But I think that fruitfulness comes by investing in relationships. That's why I don't regret bumping my to-dos down the priority list to spend extra time with family and friends over the past month.

As an extreme example, think of a workaholic. Would you call him productive? Probably. (Look at all of the results he gets in his job!) Would you call him fruitful? No. His life and priorities are totally out balance. He is totally neglecting relationships -- with God and with everyone else.

We've all heard the old saying that no one says on his deathbed, "I wish I'd spent more time at the office." The idea isn't that a person realizes that he was unproductive. Looking at his life as a tree, perhaps the tree has grown large and can be seen from afar. Not only that, but the lawn around it has been carefully manicured, and a fence has been built around it to keep out intruders. But as one looks at the tree, it becomes clear that the tree itself is barren. Completely. It's impressive, it's noticeable, but the few pieces of fruit that once hung from its branches long ago shriveled and fell to the ground from neglect. That is what we might call a very productive, completely unfruitful life. Too easily, it's the American life -- not just for "them" but for us too.



Blogger The Stranger said...

Very insightful Sonic! I am increasingly impressed by your musings.

1/16/2010 2:10 PM

Blogger Laedelas Greenleaf said...

I read this twice, it was that good :-) Is it possible to have too much fruit and not enough productivity?

1/16/2010 4:13 PM

Blogger Jason said...


I started typing a response a few days ago, but it was getting long-winded and confusing... basically, I needed time to think about your questions.

Not that I'm an expert, but you asked, so I'll give my best answer...


... I keep erasing long-winded answers... I'm trying to neither over-simplify nor over-complicate... but I think this will be somewhat long anyway... in fact, it's now become so long that I've made it a new post (probably long-winded)

1/21/2010 5:39 PM

Blogger Jason said...

One other thing, a noted irony: as I signed off the computer after completing this post, I began running down my checklist of what I had intended to do while logged on: "... finally wrote that post... that was productive..."

1/21/2010 5:40 PM

Blogger Laedelas Greenleaf said...

HA! That is ironic...

1/22/2010 8:16 PM

Blogger RiverJordan said...

Nice thoughts. I believe that there's definitely an element of balance between productivity and fruitfulness. To be honest, I'm much better at the former. I can sit down and work 18 hours a day like it's nothing- but it takes a ton of energy for me to make my relationships work. [I'm very introverted and self-motivated] I think of everything the Bible prescribes as small pieces to a whole- the 'good' life per say. This life is different for all of us, therefore different parts of the Bible will be more applicable to some of us than others, and vice versa.

But look at me, rambling on someone else's blog =]

I love your blog! If you get a chance, check out mine @
We can even link up if you'd like. You rock!


2/01/2010 11:07 PM


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