Personal Productivity in Psalm 127
I love Psalm 127. Not because it makes me feel great, necessarily, but because it hits me like a ton of bricks whenever I read it (like I did last night, during evening prayer).
Here’s how the Psalm opens:
Unless the Lord builds the house, the builders labor in vain. Unless the Lord watches over the city, the guards stand watch in vain.
I don’t know about you, but it’s easy for me to think that my success or lack thereof completely depends on me and the intensity of my efforts.
Not true! It doesn’t matter how hard you work. If the Lord is not behind it and in favor of it, you’ll be laboring in vain.
Now, of course, this Psalm doesn’t undo the Bible other admonitions to work diligently, lest you fall into poverty (see my post about Poverty in the book of Proverbs).
However, it does have implications for when we go to bed!
Go to Sleep
Verse 2 reads:
In vain you rise early and stay up late, toiling for food to eat— for he grants sleep to those he loves.
Thankfully, personal productivity advice these days has come around to recognizing the vital importance of sleep for your health.
However, I don’t know about you, but I often feel the nagging temptation that, if only I could squeeze a few extra hours out of the day, I could turn things around. To be perfectly honest, this is one of the reasons why I try to get up early (~5:00am) most mornings.
There’s nothing inherently wrong with getting up early in the morning. After all, Jesus himself did so, in order to pray (see Mark 1:35).
However, if you’re staying up late and getting up early in order to toil away because you think your work and success depends only on your efforts, then this Psalm encourages you to go to bed. Get some sleep. Learn to receive each day, along with exactly as much time as it contains, as a gift from God.
Have Some Kids
The second part of the Psalm hits close to home as well! (See my previous post: 3 Confessions of an Expectant Father.)
Verses 3-5 read:
Children are a heritage from the Lord, offspring a reward from him. Like arrows in the hands of a warrior are children born in one’s youth. Blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them. They will not be put to shame when they contend with their opponents in court.
DISCLAIMER: I don’t have space here to address the complicated issue of infertility or other things that get in the way of having children. Just know that these verses don’t negate the fact that God loves and draws near to people going through such things in their times of pain.
Nevertheless, these verses also teach an important truth: children are a blessing from God.
Don’t get me wrong, I love kids. And, as I’ve said in my previous post, I’m excited to be a dad!
And yet, I think that I’m going to need this Psalm as a frequent reminder in the days and years ahead! Personal productivity advice has come around to the idea of sleep being important, but I don’t know if there’s broad consensus on children always being considered a blessing! If you ask many people, the jury is still out on whether or not having children makes you happier - much less more productive!!
Reminders of Our Finitude
So, I think this Psalm is a countercultural reminder that both sleep and children are good gifts from God.
They are BOTH reminders that we are finite creatures who cannot accomplish everything (or even anything meaningful) on our own. Instead, even though we are called to make the best use of our time, we are to receive each day as a gift from God - recognizing that, without his constant provision and sustenance, we would perish.
So, take heart! Go to bed a little earlier tonight! Everything doesn’t depend on you.
How would your sleep habits and/or your plans for the future change if you took Psalm 127 to heart?
Let me know in the comments below!