Nov 23

The Danger of Being in Neutral

Exams are over for me, and for tens of thousands of people across Queensland as well. Many have finished secondary education, wondering what to do; some filled with aspiration, many content with being in no rush to set a new goal. Many have completed one extra year of tertiary education, with a few amongst those completing their entire degree, wondering what to do; some filled with aspiration, many content with being in no rush to set a new goal.

Reflecting on the past year, for many people including myself, the definition of “taking a break” means “anything that isn’t work”. While this seems like a decent definition, the danger lies in the broadness of the definition. Have you noticed that no matter what is on your to-do list, regardless of how simple or difficult it is, you feel some sort of desire to avoid it? Why? Well I dare say that the simple fact it’s on a to-do list and yet to be done, makes it “work”.

How then do we work more effectively? Especially in the holiday period, how do we use our time effectively and not go to bed feeling like a day has been wasted? How do we set goals, big or small, and get closer to achieving them every day? An excellent portrayal of the concept can be found in a saying recorded in Proverbs 24:30-34:

30 I passed by the field of a sluggard,
by the vineyard of a man lacking sense,
31 and behold, it was all overgrown with thorns;
the ground was covered with nettles,
and its stone wall was broken down.
32 Then I saw and considered it;
I looked and received instruction.
33 A little sleep, a little slumber,
a little folding of the hands to rest,
34 and poverty will come upon you like a robber,
and want like an armed man.

Being the sluggard who owns a vineyard means that things quickly get out of hand without proper maintenance. So it is for us. Our vineyard is our family, our study, our work, our health, our friends and most importantly, our relationship with God (not an exhaustive list). If we do not keep a watchful eye on how we spend our time, the things we treasure most can turn out to become burdens for us. Look at the list of the things I included in “our vineyard” above. For each thing, think about how it has been impacted upon by your neglect or procrastination in the past.

Unfortunately for us, it’s not easy to fix a situation arising out of long-term neglect; let alone a lifelong habit of inefficiently using time. To get the opposite result we need to do the opposite thing. If our relationships with our family are on thin ice, we’ll need to pay more attention and sacrifice more for them, as opposed to less. If we are unhealthy physically or spiritually, we’ll need to pay more attention to daily devotion to both exercise and nurturing our treasured relationship with Christ.

What I’ve said is all good and well for things that need urgent attention, like exams or a turbulent relationship. But what about the things that don’t seem to benefit anyone, least of all, us?

Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men (Colossians 3:23)

In the past year, the above instruction to the Colossians has found a place in my endeavour to be more productive. For many things in life, we need to realise that working for peoples’ sake doesn’t always work out nicely. We’ll be quickly lulled into the trap of doing things for show, or to make ourselves look good. Moreover, we’ll be looking to input the minimal effort required for maximum self-glorification.

If we work for God however, our incentive becomes working for Him. It becomes gratitude for all the things and people we have in our life. We’re no longer the focus of our actions, but only a side beneficiary of the fruits of working gratefully, humbly and consistently for our Lord. We no longer see it as our vineyard, but rather the vineyard that God has placed us in charge of. Thorns, nettles and broken walls, they have no place in God’s vineyard. But who wouldn’t be grateful for the opportunity to prune and nurture a vineyard which is a free gift to them from God!

Have a blessed, safe, relaxing and productive break (for those of you who get one). =)
-Nathan Chandra