Efficiency and Fruitfulness

Social scientists observe that once a technology fully enters the fabric of a culture, the values of that technology will slowly replace the values of the people. What is the mother of all values for machines and technology? Efficiency - a value we have swallowed hook, line, and sinker.

The Bible does not hold up efficiency as a Christian virtue, and yet our drive to be efficient is at an all-time high. When one is efficient, one acts with speed and accomplishes many tasks in a short period of time. Efficient people check items off of their list and they get a lot of things done. Efficient people often view relationships instrumentally. People are a means to an end. The end game is always the completion of a task.

Efficiency is not bad if you are doing your taxes or if you need to run several errands and find yourself in a time crunch. However, when it comes to matters of life and faith, we must make a distinction between efficiency and fruitfulness (see Colossians 1:6).

Unlike efficiency, fruitfulness is messy and depends upon factors outside of our control like weather and soil conditions. Fruitfulness is slow and nonlinear. There is typically a gap between the sowing of a seed and the reaping. Oftentimes one person sows while another person reaps. Thus fruitfulness, unlike efficiency, assumes the context of a larger community. No one can be fruitful alone.

All one needs to be efficient is expertise and skill, but fruitfulness requires trust. One buries a seed and waits in prayer with his or her community for the harvest to come.

Do you fear being inefficient? Consider that a truly fruitful action oftentimes appears inefficient in the moment and that one can be highly efficient and yet horribly ineffective.