Now efficiency is not to be confused with productivity - they are two distinct terms. Just as in the parable of the talents, it is not how much you do that counts, but how much you do with what you've been given.
As with engines, much of our efficiency as Christians is lost in the form of hot air, exhaust, and friction. Our efficiency suffers when we blow hot air about the kingdom, exhaust ourselves with busy work like Martha, or neglect to address frictional situations and relationships.
One identifying characteristic of the truth is its ability to defend itself. Not only is it very tiring to defend one's own idiosyncratic interpretation of the Kingdom, it also does incalculable damage to the name of Christianity. It isn't enough to be talking about the things of God; we must be talking truth about them. The more we align our thinking and teaching with God's revealed truth, the better chance God's unblunted Word has of getting through our pasty rhetoric and the fewer words we will waste talking nonsense.
Driving ourselves into the ground with misguided effort and busy work will further reduce our efficiency. Like a power tool that is forced to cut too fast, we will choke, sputter, and overheat, confused and hurt that we have so little to show for all our effort. The solution is simple: put God first, and stop trying so hard to be an amateur deity. The last thing Christianity needs is more demigods. More on this in an upcoming post.
Frictional relationships prevent us from walking before God with the peace he desires us to have. He exhorts us to "live peaceably with all" (Rom. 12:18, Heb. 12:14). Leaving wrongs unrighted and apologies unsaid is no way to live the abundant life. We have to get used to confronting mistakes, embarrassments, and misunderstandings head-on. This is uncomfortable. "No chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous: nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby." (Heb. 12:11) If there is something between you and your brother, it must be set right before you can render service to God. (Matt. 5:24)
Living for the maximum glory of God necessarily means identifying and eliminating those things that decrease our spiritual efficiency. By "spiritual efficiency" I do not mean offering copious prayers or writing stacks of books or witnessing to hordes of people, though those are all good things. I simply mean doing whatever God has called you to do as fully and effectively as possible - whether that is saving the poor of Cambodia or simply sitting at His feet.
Also, I do not wish to make efficiency itself into a kind of fetish. As Sandra McCracken sings, "Love is not efficient / and even if it was / I wanna take the long way home..." Living the Christian life involves doing things that make no sense by ordinary standards, but this should not surprise us. We're part of a different Kingdom and a different economy, and therefore we must be faithful to a deeper efficiency - that of the woman with the alabaster flask.
"Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us." -Hebrews 12:1
Image courtesy of germes-online.com