“The old rules – you don’t work on the Sabbath – creating forced slack in our schedules, has real value…”https://www.bbc.com/worklife/article/20191202-how-time-scarcity-makes-us-focus-on-low-value-tasks
I could have easily written the words I quoted above. In fact, I kind of wish I had. They are actually from a secular source, a study about productivity and stress from the other side of the pond. I think the Brits are really on to something here.
It turns out that stress, particularly time-scarcity, induces a phenomenon called “tunneling”, a psychological state of hyper-focus. This sounds like a positive thing, and in short bursts it is. I imagine it to be a God-given ability to deal with an emergency or a focused hunt for food.
But in larger, longer doses it is a fatal prescription. It turns out that people under constant time-scarcity make disastrous strategic decisions. The author of the study wrote that subjects in a simulation put under long-term time stress did poorly. In fact,
“…because scarcity narrowed their bandwidth, they were so focused on the current round, they were unable to strategise about the future and made disastrous choices, like borrowing at exorbitant rates, that wound up costing them dearly.”
The fact that secular authors actually referred to the positive outcomes of an older time when a Sabbath was respected is no surprise to me. As I’ve said several times before, God’s ways are the best ways, not just in a moral sense, but in hard-core practical ways, too. To put it in software engineering terms: Our programming is optimized for a certain context.
Ponder that for a moment.
The One who made us and the universe we inhabit knows how to optimize us as well, and achieve multiple goals simultaneously.
- The closer we can get to living in the right context, the more productive we will be.
- The closer we can get to living in the right context, the happier we will be.
Happiness and productivity are not mutually exclusive concepts in God’s economy. Ultimately, we must walk with enough faith to believe that God cares about us in the totality of our lives. He knows we need to succeed in multiple arenas: Family, church body, and career.
My millennial readers may be tempted to write me off as an old fart yearning for a return to the “good old days”. Well, if so, then you’re only half right: I’m an old fart, but I know from first hand experience that the old days were not all that great, either. Every generation makes its own mistakes.
My passion is to speak truth to all generations. Blindly accepting what our culture hands us as behavioral norms is always going to lead us down a dark path. Having lived for half a decade in a non-Western culture I can tell you with some authority that all cultures simultaneously reflect two seemingly contradictory things:
- The total depravity of man… we are all sinful, and our cultures reflect that in different ways and to different degrees. But human is human everywhere, and the Bible is clear, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” Every culture has its dark corners.
- The glory of God… Yes, we have marred the image, but that image is still the image of God. Every culture I’ve been privileged to interact with has elements of the divine, again, in different ways and in different degrees.
The point of it all is this: The One who made us also knows us best. We dare not allow our imperfect human culture to dictate how we live our lives. If you want to optimize the totality of human experience, submit it all to His guidance. I’m not a pharisee about not working on the Sabbath per se, but I am wildly and enthusiastically in favor of finding a full day per week to totally disconnect from work. It is an act of faith, first of all, and teaches us to rely on the real source of life.
But it is more than that; there is a practical side: Research is beginning to emerge that shows a pattern of better creativity and focus amongst those who completely disengage from work for 24 hours each week.
I, for one, am not the least bit surprised.