Charity in a World of Productivity


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Productivity specialists share how the immediate can impede what is most important. Without a clear set of goals, to-do list items and self-discipline, we can easily fall prey to methodically responding to the “pop-ups” of daily life: news feeds, text messages, phone calls, housework, errands and the “deal of the week.”

Even when these don’t require a particular response, they can involve time, attention and the ability to focus in such a way that the most important items on the agenda find more difficulty getting done.

At the same time, in an age of apps and “smart” productivity tools, it is easy to lose focus of what is actually most important, and the answer may be one running contrary to worldly concepts of success.

As St. John of the Cross, a 16th-century Carmelite priest and doctor of the Church, teaches, “At the evening of life, we shall be judged on our love.”

Perhaps it sounds overly simplistic, but fruitful charity rather than productivity is a Gospel value. One cannot help but recall Matthew 25, where the sheep and the goats in the Final Judgment are spoken of in terms of corporal acts of mercy: “I was hungry and you gave me food …” Such a simple act, done in the spirit of charity, can carry a value that the world cannot see.

In choosing to prize charity over productivity, one is also reminded of the episode of Mary and Martha.

Mary wasn’t “producing” anything while sitting at the feet of Jesus, but we are told this was “the better part.”

Of course daily duties must be attended to, and no one likes a messy house or untidy inbox, but sometimes the perfect is the enemy of the good.                              

The take-home lesson is that everyone should make more room for love, for the one who is Love, and put love into all of our work and daily activities.

This is also consistent with another maxim of St. John of the Cross: “Where there is no love, put love, and you will find love.” Love in the little things. Love in folding laundry, in a smile, in patience with a co-worker or in a difficult situation — and in carrying out your to-do list.

St. Teresa of Calcutta knew the value of charity over productivity and one might say even popularized it in the saying: “God has not called me to be successful; he has called me to be faithful.”

She was, nevertheless, amazingly productive in her life, accomplishing more than most of us could even dream of — and “All for Jesus!”

If charity is the most important thing in life, perhaps it would be good to make a daily examination in regard to this essential virtue:

  • How have I loved today?
  • How have I loved the Lord today?
  • How have I let Christ love through me today?
  • How have I allowed myself to be loved by him?

May we ever find more room for charity and prayer in our daily lives. As a consequence, it just may make us more productive and help us to complete more items on our to-do lists, as well.

Laura Dittus writes from Irondale, Alabama,

where she serves as a theology adviser for EWTN.