In early August, Sundar Pichai, the CEO of Google’s parent company Alphabet, called a town hall meeting to exhort employees to greater productivity.

“There are real concerns that our productivity as a whole is not where it needs to be for the headcount we have,” he is reported to have told employees.

Technology giant Google is one of the most employee-friendly companies in the world. It has consistently topped the charts in several best employer surveys. And so, Pichai’s call for employees to deliver more, spotlighted many unspoken tensions and anxiety that workers around the world are trying to navigate.

In India too, companies are making higher demands on productivity. Given where India stands on the economic trajectory, our culture is constantly clamouring for more. 

All of us have experienced the joy of high productivity. But, like Pichai recently called out 150,000 Google employees, we have also been judged short.

At such times, productivity could be a heavy burden to carry. The weight of both internal desires and external expectations can combine into a crushing reality.

How should Christians—both employers and employees—respond to our culture’s call for greater productivity?

First, we should affirm and celebrate the call to greater productivity. The goal of all productivity is human flourishing. And greater productivity often translates to greater human flourishing. 

But, at the same time, we must also reject how contemporary culture defines productivity. The world’s definition of productivity is significantly different from how the Gospel encourages us to see it.

Our culture defines productivity primarily in terms of the economic output produced. It is often cold or indifferent to the efforts invested. The outcome is often what counts most. It overshadows effort.

The Gospel, on the other hand, does not fixate only on output or outcomes. It celebrates faithfulness in the effort. 

When Christ recounted the parable of the talents it may have seemed as if he is rewarding the servant for the quantity of output produced. The master gave the servant five talents. He used them to earn five more. And the master rewarded him (Matt. 25:14–30).

But a closer reading of the passage will establish that Christ was actually celebrating the servant’s faithful application to the task at hand. 

“Well done, good and faithful servant,” Jesus said. It is the servant’s faithfulness that Christ is applauding. 

Our Lord counted faithfulness as productivity.

Faithfulness is what we are called to bring to the table. Fruitfulness flows according to God’s sovereign good pleasure.

Internalising this truth well can free us from a lot of anxiety and disappointment. This can prepare us better for the reality of an imperfect and broken world where two plus two may not always add up to four here and now.

In a world that is still twisted by sin, all labour will not be perfectly rewarded. Some will get more than they deserve—either by happenstance or through manipulation. Others will get less.

But Christian hope invites us to shift our gaze from the immediate to the ultimate. It invites us to fix our eyes on Jesus, who will in the end, fairly and justly reward all work.

The Gospel is therefore an invitation to pour ourselves into faithfulness, irrespective of the outcome, here and now.

How Productivity Makes Us Feel

Our culture is not only trying to alter the narrative of what productivity is. It is also altering the narrative of how we should feel about our productivity and about ourselves.

The world wants us to feel good about ourselves based on our productivity (defined as economic output). Our value, worth, and significance are based on our productivity. Or, we must prove our worth—every day, over and over again.

Faithfulness is what we are called to bring to the table. Fruitfulness flows according to God’s sovereign good pleasure.

The Gospel though reverses the order. Our productivity—faithful serving—flows from the incredible value, worth, and significance we have already freely received through Christ’s redemptive work.

We are no longer working to earn our worth. We are working as a grateful response to being counted infinitely worthy, when we were not (Eph. 2:4-5).

In the long run, someone living out a Christian worldview of productivity will work harder and smarter than someone living in our culture’s worldview of productivity. 

Why is that?

Our culture imposes productivity as a burden. The Gospel encourages productivity from a state of joyful and unburdened being. Obviously, the one free of any burden can run faster and longer than the one carrying a heavy burden.