The seven days of creation model how we ought to do productive work, not only the schedule of the workweek. There is no greater demonstration of creativity than Genesis 1, from which I derive a theological definition of productivity.
A productivity system is a set of tools and habits that enables you to produce something. But many use these systems to devise ornate methods of organization or excuse the purchase of expensive gadgets.
Genesis 1:1 declares that God created everything, but 1:2 indicates the earth’s condition before God began his six-day work: “without form,” “void,” “darkness,” and “waters”. Each term communicates chaos in the ancient Near Eastern context, and is brought to order and life in 1:3-2:3. The first three days of creation describe the “organization” of the world, and the second three days its “vitalization.”
The two tasks of creation
God organizes the cosmos in days 1-3 by putting the unordered darkness and water where it belongs. Darkness goes with the night, light with the day. Some waters go above, some below. The waters below go in certain places, so the dry land appears to keep them where they belong. As Grandma says, a place for everything and everything in its place.
God correspondingly vitalizes the cosmos in days 4-6. In day one he created light, so in day four he fills the sky with luminaries and gives them a purpose, to mark time. On day five he fills the upper and lower waters with living creatures – birds above, fish below. On day six the earth is filled the beasts, and, climactically, with mankind, bearing God’s image and ruling God’s world.
The pattern is organization then vitalization. Order then purpose. Form then function. This model guides us little ‘c’ creators in our work as we bring this place under God’s dominion.
How your theology of creation affects your approach to productivity
1. In light of the gospel, our productivity ought to work toward new creation. The resurrection of Jesus is God’s great statement that he is re-creating the world, and our efforts toward productivity will be a waste if they are not a means to fulfill our role in his redemptive plan, for God’s glory and our neighbor’s good.
2. Organization is half the battle. Organization by itself is inconsequential tidiness. Genesis 1 shows us that it is a means to the end of making something that wasn’t there before. You organize your sermon with exegesis and interacting with commentaries. You vitalize it by preaching it and injecting resurrection life into your people.
3. Evaluate productivity accurately. The organizing-vitalizing definition of productivity provides a standard for evaluating your work. You have to bring organization and vitalization to some idea or problem in order to be truly productive and effective. Ignoring the former leads to sloppiness. Leaving out the latter is laziness.
D. A. Carson once said that pastoral ministry is a place where lazy people hide. Instead, may we be tenaciously productive and spread God’s kingdom. God has showed us how.