subtract to produce more

Subtract to Produce More

Subtract to Produce More

Do you believe this works: subtract to produce more? It’s been an experiment for me.

Life has been crazy lately. I was doing a running/lifting program that had me training for a 5k and I feel like that totally flopped.

You know when you start something, and you have full ambition to complete it, but then you get side tracked? Or you develop ailments because you’re falling apart?

I’m kidding, but that was kind of my story. I realized that my body needed to rest. I needed to subtract in order to be more productive. And I know that sounds counterintuitive.

Elementary math does not subtract to produce more.

The basics are contrary to this concept:

  1. Want more of something = You add
  2. Wanting less of something = You subtract

But when we’re talking about our productivity, subtracting is what makes you more productive.

Subtract to produce more so God can use the energy that He gave us on exactly what He has called us to do.

subtract to produce more

There is a story in the book of Mark, chapter 10, it’s about a rich young ruler. This rich young ruler came to Jesus, fell at his feet and said, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” Then Jesus said to him:

“Why do you call me good?…Only God is truly good. But to answer your question, you know the commandments: ‘You must not murder. You must not commit adultery. You must not steal. You must not testify falsely. You must not cheat anyone. Honor your father and mother.’” Mark 10:18-19

Now granted, Jesus knows this man. He knew he was coming, He has the beautiful gift of being fully God and fully man.

He knows his intentions. And it’s interesting to me that the words this rich young ruler used were first, “good teacher,” and second, “what can I do to inherit eternal life.”

Jesus started by addressing the good teacher part by saying there is only one “good teacher” and that’s the Father. Obviously, He is God, but He was acknowledging the fact that no one is good.

What do we need to subtract?

We cannot be good enough to be acknowledged as good, because we are all sinners (except Jesus).

Addressing the second thing, He answered that he needed to follow the ten commandments.

Then this rich young ruler says that he has been doing that since he was young. Notice Jesus’ response:

“Looking at the man, Jesus felt genuine love for him. ‘There is still one thing that you haven’t done,’ he told him. ‘Go sell all your possessions and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.’” Mark 10:21

Jesus looked at him with compassion, He looked at him with empathy, and He looked at him with love.

The verse specifically points this out as if before this moment, Jesus wasn’t looking at him. I can imagine that He and the disciples were worn down. They were tired, they were in the trenches of ministry.

And maybe they were just busy packing up things or cleaning stuff, then suddenly it triggered Jesus’ ears when he said he had done all of those things. He stopped what he was doing and looked at him.

Kind of like that look people give when they’re like ‘ok, here we go.’ It got his attention. There is a sense of pride in this guy.

He has established status and wealth, and he wants to achieve eternal life through something he can do.

Maybe he is a brilliant business man or he inherited all of his wealth. Maybe he came from the bottom, earned all of his money, and now has a chip on his shoulder.

But Jesus wasn’t going to let this slip by. Knowing that this guy had not followed the commandments his entire life, Jesus said the one thing he lacked was to sell all of his things, then come follow Him.

subtract to produce more

Now does this mean He is asking us to sell all of our possessions and come follow Him? A lot of people get hung up on this.

They read it and they’re like ‘well, that seems unrealistic.’ But it’s not necessarily that God is asking you to do that.

I mean maybe He is, but maybe He isn’t. This passage is less about selling your possessions and more about understanding that there is nothing that you can do.

There is no favor or approval that you can earn through your own gumption or by your own productivity.

What will we produce more of?

It’s not about doing, its about the act of surrender.

Jesus was asking this rich young ruler to surrender all of his earthly possessions because he was holding on to them.

He wanted all of that to be disposable, because He said that if we follow Him, He will show us the true treasure. He will be our true treasure. Get rid of everything else and follow Him.

Then it says that instead of the rich young ruler being satisfied with that answer, instead of being happy that he could attain peace and eternal life and have that security to walk with his Savior, instead he hung his head, felt sad, and walked away.

subtract to produce more

I think about that story and wonder about all the times that I come to Jesus with questions. Do I hang my head and say I just can’t and completely ignore the instructions that He’s just given me?

Do I completely ignore the fact that He’s asked me to surrender? Do I completely ignore that God is saying that I don’t have to carry this burden?

He says my yoke is easy and my burden is light, come follow me. How many times do we refuse to pick up the yoke that Jesus has given us?

He says He will be our source of energy, He will be the one to sharpen our skills, He will be the one to walk beside us, to guide us every step of the way.

Oftentimes, we are like the rich young ruler who hangs his head and simply walks away. Because the answer that we are given over and over and over about laying down our life is too hard.

Are we really gaining anything by holding on to the worldly possessions of this brief time that we’re here? We gain nothing.

God is saying to let Him carry that heavy burden, but all we hear is how heavy of a burden that would be. So we keep walking.

All the while, we are carrying an even heavier burden. Trying to be good enough, work hard enough, achieve enough, love enough, to be all of these things, to do more, to try to earn God’s love.

We should not work from a place for love, we should work from a place from love. Read that again.

We should not work for love, we should work from love.

Whatever we are doing throughout our day, it should not be to earn God’s favor or approval. We shouldn’t be motivated by avoiding discipline.

Just have an attitude of gratitude, from the depth of your heart, that he understands that you are a sinner and loves you anyway.

Then acknowledge that you cannot do this without Him and because of that willingly surrender whatever you are holding on to. Because what He has to offer is so much better than anything we have

Feeling sluggish? Subtract to produce more.

I love this story. And there are four thousand other life lessons we could learn from it. But today, I want us to understand that after Thanksgiving, we might be sluggish.

We have a couple more weeks of hustle until the Christmas season. Let’s focus on what matters. You’ve heard that before, cliche or not, try to approach this holiday season with a lighter burden because you have taken the weight off your shoulders and laid it at the feet of Jesus.

He has already asked you to do that.

So do what the rich young ruler could not.

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