Ransom Fellowship
spacer articles movies music books art faith discernment spacer
press kit
Ransom Blogs
current article  
In Praise of Inefficiency spacer In Praise of Inefficiency
BY: Denis Haack
One proof of capitalism’s success can be seen in the unquestioned assumption that its values always contribute to human flourishing. Efficiency and productivity, for example, are not merely valued in the workplace but weasel their way into human interactions and relationships where they do not belong. Meetings of friends need to occur crisply, conversations need to be proficient, and time must not be wasted because we are busy.

The industrial revolution proved the value of efficiency and production, developing better ways of accomplishing laborious tasks and increasing the amount that can be accomplished in the same amount of time. The standard of living went up, the middle class expanded, and goods and services became cheaper. These are good things. Efficiency and productivity was also applied to management. The time spent in meetings was streamlined, needed information could be distributed proficiently with greater clarity, and workers could spend more time on task instead of getting ready to be on task. Again, these are good things.

What has been missed, however, is that what works brilliantly in the marketplace can do serious damage to our humanity when inserted into realms of life in which they do not properly belong. We’ve all experienced it. People keep their phones on during conversations so their focus is always divided and talk is interrupted. People rush into life groups, and repeatedly check the time. People multitask in meetings, checking email while taking notes. People are too busy to take true Sabbaths and blame their job as if they have no choice. Each of these signals that the thing at hand is not worth their full attention, and that there isn’t time for unhurried conversation because that simply isn’t efficient or productive.

The Christian understanding of sin is when a good gift of God is misused. Words are good gifts but using them to subvert the truth to my neighbor’s harm is sin (lying). Recognizing beauty is a good gift but undressing my neighbor’s wife in my imagination is sin (lust). Both efficiency and productivity are good gifts to make the marketplace more satisfying and able to meet needs for the common good but as a standard for human relationships they are sin (dehumanizing). Allowing them where they are not appropriate shows them to be the perverted ideals of an idolatry bent on reducing human relationships to commodities. Capitalism and modern management theory are helpful tools but as ideologies they seek our allegiance, and that we must beware.

The truth is that relationships cannot be hurried, conversations are fully authentic only to the extent they are unforced, life is messy, and being still to wait upon God requires a radically different set of values. If we are too busy we can brutally review our commitments and begin to make changes that allow us to more fully embrace kingdom values. If we are so shaped by efficiency and productivity that we are unable to relax into time when humanness, listening, and stillness prevail we can repent and begin to develop the spiritual disciplines we lack. If we have the opportunity we can even bring kingdom values into the marketplace so that people are not misused and underappreciated in the quest for efficiency and productivity.

Efficiency and productivity are such wonderful tools and result in so much that is good that they easily mask their cruelty. Since talking together is good, shouldn’t talking about more in the same time be even better? (No. Sometimes just being together is what matters.) Since it takes so little to check email during the meeting is it all that important to focus on points I already understand? (Focus is not merely for comprehension.) Since our conversation continues even as my phone beeps, shouldn’t I be available in case someone really needs me? (Our friendship needs you now, here.) And since a lot of this is not going to come cheaply is it really as important as all that? (Kingdom values are worth the cost.)

So, join me if you will, in raising a cheer: In praise of efficiency and productivity in their rightful tiny slice of life and in praise of inefficiency and unproductivity in the rest of life.



about the author
Denis Haack
Denis is the author of The Rest of Success: What the World Didn’t Tell You About Having It All and has written articles for such journals as Reformation & Revival Journal, Eternity, Covenant, and World. He holds a Master of Arts in Theological Studies degree from Covenant Seminary in St. Louis.
spacer spacer spacer
other articles from this author
Caesar’s Coin Revisited: Christians and the Limits of Government (Michael Cromartie, 1996)

The Challenge of Jesus: Rediscovering Who Jesus Was and Is and Jesus and the Restoration of Israel (N.T. Wright, 1999)

The Call: Finding and Fulfilling the Central Purpose of Your Life (Os Guiness, 1998)

related articles
spacer A Life-giving, Transformative Ordinary

What Do Students Need from Me?

Nourishing Our Souls

Non-Christians Reflect on Calling

Discipleship in a Secular Age: Engaging the Culture with Charles Taylor and James Smith

Finding Silence

The Gnostic Life

The Uncomfortable Path to Maturity

In Praise of Inefficiency

Pilgrim Stories: Evangelism is a Dirty Word to Millennials

How Committed is Too Committed?

Seeing beyond the traces

I Am Addicted to Diversion. Are You?

A Prayer for Terrorists

Of Things Unseen

Virtues by an atheist

Fishsauce & Mayonaisse

Facing Guns and Horror

Keeping Up in a Fast Paced World

Driving with the Brakes On: Why Doing Justice Is So Difficult

spacer spacer spacer bottom
Ransom Fellowship
Ransom Fellowship
spacer This web site is old and creaky. The email function functions poorly when it functions at all. Worse, it all looks old. So we are starting work on building a new site, and hope to have it functioning by fall.

Our vision will not change, nor will our attempt in this little spot of the Internet to invite you to join us in thinking about the things that matter most. Thanks for visiting.

Denis & Margie Haack
Anita Gorder

Home | Articles | Publications | Search | People | Links | FAQ | Donate | About | Contact | Press

All material © 2000-2017 Ransom Fellowship Ministries
Site design by JaM Multimedia