Keeping People Central in a Task Driven World
My youngest daughter, Susan and I
Why People First
Much can be written to document our tendencies to become task masters and treat people as just another “to-do” on our never ending tasks lists. The purpose of this writing is to discuss ways to let relationships drive tasks and how to include people as much as we can along life’s path of duties and unexpected challenges.
However, before we get down to the practical, we need to look at some whys. Practical steps for anything can lose their power and heartfelt resolve unless we understand why we should do tasks for the sake of relationships and why we tend to do the opposite.
Base Scriptures such as Matthew 6:33 and Matthew 22:37-40, among many others, set the fundamental truth that life is foremost about relationships, first with the Lord and then with each other.
However, we are also called to be stewards, to manage the resources God has placed in our charge. God has called us to seek first His Kingdom and His Righteousness, but He has also commanded us to work and to take dominion over the earth. We are to ‘work heartily as working for the Lord rather than men’ (Col 3:23), for our words and deeds are to be done in Jesus’ name, with thanksgiving to God (Col 3:17). We are also called to be Christ’s ambassadors. (II Co 5:20)
If we are to be working and doing and speaking in Jesus’ name, as His ambassadors, our approach to the ‘deeds’, the tasks and duties should be the same as His. Jesus did not wake up in the morning and look at his task list and let it drive His day. His daily tasks were more like the tracks his day would take to bring the people he would encounter. The people were on His heart, the duties were simply the path. And of course often people were what the duty was all about. He simply set out to love somebody.
One illustration that comes to mind involves a very stable company I work with. The company is a technology company for sure, but, unlike other companies I have worked with, this company lets the business needs drive the technology it uses. In other words, technology would not be purchased first and then forced to be used when a business need arises. Rather, as business needs arise, the technology would be purchased only as needed to do the best for the client.
People and tasks should be looked at in a similar way. Relationships are the business, the tasks, like the technology tools, are to serve the people. Are tasks ever done for the sake of the task itself? Or, is some relationship behind every task we do? I would imagine so, if we include our relationships with the Lord and ourselves. This serves as a great filter before we even begin a task. Who am I doing the task for? When tasks have a face, it is easier ‘to do’ out of love.
Below is an excerpt from a Journal Entry made in 2000 about the subject:
When Activities Become Expressions of Love
My first day back at work since I left the Martha life behind is over. How did my new focus on ONE THING affect my day? I spent a little time basking in my Savior’s love before I got to work. What impressed me most was what I believe could be the result of a life that will only do when released by the Savior to do so. I believe that what can begin to happen as I sit at my Savior’s feet until I become His feet, as Martha Kilpatrick puts it, is that what I do will become expressions of love; not arduous chores, joy killing burdens and overwhelming back logs, but simply expressions of love.
Wouldn’t that be awesome! Wait a minute. Isn’t that awesome? Why does it have to wait? It can happen now. Maybe not all at once, but it can happen now. In fact, that is what I think began to happen yesterday as I went back to work. The actual hours teaching did not really change in the way that I taught or the thoughts that went on. However, as I spent time soaking up the love of Jesus prior to going to work, I did begin to see the activity of teaching students about computer software as expressions of love. I stress the word begin. I began to see that teaching is a way of loving my family and serving the company and each student. It was only a beginning, but I could sense a faint whiff of delight and joy in doing out of love.
Lord; please nurture this desire in me to see my activities as expressions of love. Even as I prepare for another class today, I have the privilege of doing what you have asked me to do. You are really my boss; I am really serving you:
Colossians 3: 23 “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men, 24 since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.”. I want to get to the point that I live in your love: I John 16 “And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him.”
How to Keep People First
So, having laid the fundamental truth of relationships and love first, how does this practically work?
For prayer, prioritizing and planning purposes, life can be categorized into ten areas that can be remembered with each fingers:
Relationship Roles: Son (of God), Husband, Father, Brother (believers), Friend (unbelievers)
Stewardship Domains: Time, Health, Gifts/Talents, Wealth/Career, Possessions
From a high level standpoint the idea is to use resources to love people and to guard against purposely spending time building our domains with no other purpose than our own happiness, security and value.
Ask anyone whose purpose in life has been to build their own domains if their focus produced the desired results. If they have not achieved what they desired, they may still believe that building their domain will bring meaning to life. However, if like Solomon, they have experienced all that recourses can offer, they have found it ultimately fleeting, empty and utterly joyless.
If, on the other hand, we use our resources for the sake of people, loving them as Christ has loved us; we are on the path God desires. In reality, as we yield our lives to Christ and His love, it is Christ who loves through us and Joy will ultimately follow.
John 15:9 I have loved you, [just] as the Father has loved Me; abide in My love [continue in His love with Me]. 10 If you keep My commandments [if you continue to obey My instructions], you will abide in My love and live on in it, just as I have obeyed My Father's commandments and live on in His love. 11 I have told you these things, that My joy and delight may be in you, and that your joy and gladness may be of full measure and complete and overflowing. 12 This is My commandment: that you love one another [just] as I have loved you. (Amplified)
As we make our plans and chart our tasks, many may directly involve people. Ways to love people will be simply a matter of releasing our resource of time or money or gifts to directly benefit others. In these cases, as the gate keepers of our lives, we have the privilege of seeing Christ loving others with resources he has put in our care.
However, certain tasks, such as the maintenance of our health and possessions, the sharpening of our gifts and the management of our money, may not directly involve people. These tasks can be done in the love of the Lord and for his glory, keeping those in mind who will benefit from the resources.
But there also ways relationships can be directly involved with resource management. For example a walk is an excellent activity for physical health maintenance. Pray while you walk and you are conversing with your Father as a beloved son. On another occasion you can invite your wife, you son or a young believing brother in the Lord with you on your prayer walk. Now, just like that you are attending to your health needs while involving the Lord and others. That's the kind of activity that maximizes our time.
Other examples of involving people with tasks might be training for athletic events or playing golf with unbelieving friends, working in the yard with family or washing a car with your child.
Certainly, not every task can or should involve others. However, tasks should not distract from keeping relationships first in our lives. This is not just a good idea; it comes right from the heart of Jesus. Love really does make the world go round and it should be the motive for all we do.
So, a challenge to all task oriented people like me. Let people drive your tasks. Don’t view them as obstacles to an ever growing list of things to do. Don’t get caught up in shaping your day around your health, your money, your job, your stuff or your time, but rather love people first and view your resources as tools to help you do so.
Col 3: 17 And whatever you do [no matter what it is] in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus and in [dependence upon] His Person, giving praise to God the Father through Him. (Amplified)