How to Disentangle Your Productivity From Your Self-Worth

In this day and age, our identity is often tied to our work. It’s why we add “just” before “stay-at-home mom.” We point to our productivity as a sign of our worth. We monetize our hobbies into side-hustles. We declare ourselves a “girl boss” and then we slay the day. We outdo each other with our to-do lists and call ourselves “busy” as a matter of pride.

There’s nothing inherently wrong with being busy or productive. But at the end of the day, if we feel like we aren’t enough because we haven’t done enough, then we have a problem. We need to disentangle our self-worth from our productivity.

God speaks into our busy

These messages permeate our culture, often in such subtle ways that we don’t realize we’re falling prey to them until we crash and burn out. How can we adopt a more Christ-centered view of productivity? I believe that God speaks to this through five principles in the Bible.

1. God loves you for who you are not for what you do.

We know this but it’s nice to be reminded: we can’t earn God’s love. He made Man and Woman, you and me, and called us “very good” (Genesis 1:31). The psalmist declares that we are “fearfully and wonderfully made” (Psalm 139:14) and reminds us that the Lord is “a compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness” (Psalm 86:15) Furthermore Paul assures us:

“Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? (…) For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth nor anything else in all creation will be able to separate us from the love of God in Jesus Christ our Lord.”
(Romans 8:35a, 38–39)

Let me translate this for you:

What can come between the love God has for you? Not life or death, nor who’s in office, not the garbage in your past or whatever comes down the road, not striving nor accomplishing, not your successes or your failures, not your mistakes or your bad choices, not your waistline or your cluttered house, not your mom-guilt or how your kids turn out…. None of it can stop God from loving you!

2. The purpose of our work is to glorify God.

And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. (…) Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ. (Colossians 3:17, 23–24)

Chasing wealth and status should not be the motivation behind our hustle. Rather, we do our work to honor Him. Furthermore, we can eliminate any categories of “secular” or “sacred” work. Ministry work is not more sacred than menial work. Managing toddler tantrums is just as sacred as managing employees. God can be glorified in whatever we do when we have the right motivations.

3. Our God is a God of rhythm and rest.

We see this in God’s command to keep the Sabbath (Exodus 20:8–11). We see this in his command to let the land rest every seven years (Exodus 23:11) We see this modeled when God created the Earth, by resting on the seventh day. And we see this modeled for us in Jesus in the many times he withdrew from the crowds to rest and pray. We are going against our God-given design when we try to burn the candle at both ends.

how to disentangle your productivity from your self-worth

4. Wealth shouldn’t be the goal of our productivity.

If our hustle and productivity is geared towards the accumulation of wealth, we are wasting our God-given time. Different than making a living, this kind of frantic work is geared towards making more money so we can spend more money. Jesus says that instead of storing up wealth, we should lay up treasures in heaven:

Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. (Matthew 6:19–20)

When we attempt to find our happiness, worth, and satisfaction in our bank accounts, no number will be high enough for us.

In Ecclesiastes, we are reminded “Better is a handful of quietness than two hands full of toil and a striving after the wind.” (Ecc. 4:6) In our world of excess and keeping up with the Jones’, we often don’t realize that we can live well with less. Jesus knew that our hearts would be oriented towards what we treasure, and striving after the wind was a futile waste of our time.

5. Our productivity is useless apart from God.

“I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me, you can do nothing.” (John 15:5)

If we are to store up treasure in heaven, to bear fruit for God’s kingdom in this world, we must stay connected to God and abide in Him.

“Abiding does not mean sitting idly by. It means resting in the work, resting in the moment, resting in the truth, resting in the confidence that God is your provision.”

— Robin Bertram from “No Regrets”

When we bear fruit from this place of abiding in God, we can be assured that it’s fruit that will matter, and not an empty striving after wind.

The Psalmist reminds us: “Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labor in vain. Unless the Lord watches over the city, the watchman stays awake in vain. It is in vain that you rise up early and go late to rest, eating the bread of anxious toil; for he gives to his beloved sleep.” (Psalm 127:1–2)

As a mom, I want all of my work, all of my productivity to matter. I don’t want it to be all in vain, and I don’t want to eat the bread of anxious toil. Staying closely connected to God is how I can ensure that my productivity is fruitful.

This article was an excerpt from my book Around the Clock Mom: Make the Most of Your God-Given Time. A perfect gift for Mother’s day!

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*Feature photo from Canva

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Sarah K. Butterfield is an author, speaker, and ministry leader who has a heart for empowering women to grow in their faith and be intentional with their time. She and her husband and two boys live in San Diego, where she writes about pursuing a deeper relationship with God in the midst of motherhood.

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