The Truth About Our Never-Ending To-Do Lists

To Adam he said, “Because you listened to your wife and ate fruit from the tree about which I commanded you, ‘You must not eat from it,’ “Cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil you will eat food from it all the days of your life. It will produce thorns and thistles for you, and you will eat the plants of the field. By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food until you return to the ground, since from it you were taken; for dust you are and to dust you will return.” (Genesis 3:17-19)

We’re in a series exploring 5 biblical truths about time and productivity. Last week, we saw Truth #1: That our longing for timelessness is good and God-given. Today’s passage reveals Truth #2: That while we still long for timelessness, sin has ensured we will all die with unfinished work.

When sin entered the world, death was ushered in alongside it. Human beings, who were created to be immortal, became mortal. Work, which was created to be good, became difficult. Time, which was created to be infinite, became finite. 

In short, sin has ensured that nobody will ever finish the work they envision completing in their lifetime. Karl Rahner, a prominent twentieth-century theologian, said it this way: “In the torment of the insufficiency of everything attainable, we learn that ultimately in this world there is no finished symphony.”

Haunting, depressing, and so so true. We will all die with unfinished symphonies. Our to-do lists will never be completed. There will always be a gap between what we can imagine accomplishing in this life and what we can actually get done. 

Quite an encouraging devotional, huh? But don’t quit this series just yet! I promise great hope is right around the corner, but we have to start here because our grieving over the finiteness of time is the clue that gets us to that hope. How so? C.S. Lewis answered that question when he famously said, “If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world.”

So, if we long to accomplish more than what sin will allow us to in one lifetime, it’s logical to assume that we were made for a different, timeless story. And that is precisely what the Christian narrative is all about—that while it may appear that we will all die with unfinished symphonies, ultimately this is just an illusion as “God is able to bring eternal results from our time-bound efforts” (to yet again quote Jen Wilkin). That is the hope we will turn to next week!


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