Doing Less for God

Happy family - father, mother, baby son hold hands and run with fun along edge of sunset sea on black sand beach. Active parents and people outdoor activity on tropical summer vacations with children.

A rich man inspires this little story, one you’ve probably heard. It’s called the Mexican Fisherman Story and it’s a parable about simplicity. About gaining more by doing less. About living at God’s perfect pace, not just during Lent—but always. Here’s the story:

An American businessman was standing on the pier of a small coastal Mexican village when a small boat with just one fisherman docked. Inside the small boat were several large yellowfin tuna. The American complimented the Mexican on the quality of his fish, asking how long it took to catch them.

“Only a little while,” the Mexican replied.

“Why don’t you stay out longer and catch more fish?” the American asked.

“I have enough to support my family’s needs,” the Mexican said.

“But,” the American asked, “what do you do with the rest of your time?”

The Mexican fisherman said, “I sleep late, fish a little, play with my children, take a siesta with my wife Maria, stroll into the village each evening where I sip wine and play guitar with my amigos, I have a full and busy life, señor.”

The American scoffed. “I am a Harvard MBA and could help you. You should fish more. Work more. Earn more. Then buy a bigger boat.” And then?

“Then you could buy several boats, eventually owning a fleet. Then instead of selling your catch to a middleman, you could sell directly to consumers, eventually opening your own can factory. You would need to leave this small coastal fishing village and move to Mexico City, then LA and eventually NYC where you will run your expanding enterprise.”

The Mexican fisherman asked, “But señor, how long will this all take?” 

To which the American replied, “Oh, 15-20 years.”

“But what then, señor?”

The American laughed and said, “That’s the best part. When the time is right you would announce an IPO (Initial Public Offering) and sell your company stock to the public and become very rich. You would make millions.”

“Millions, señor? Then what?”

The American said slowly, “Then you would retire. Move to a small coastal fishing village where you would sleep late, fish a little, play with your kids, take a siesta with your wife, stroll to the village in the evenings where you could sip wine and play your guitar with your amigos.”

Doing Less for God

Ah, yes. We see the point: Working day and night to “have more” and “be more” only leaves us with less.

Even when we work for God? Especially when we work for God. As it turns out, our “doing” more for God—who doesn’t need our doing—is far less crucial than “being” more of God to a hurting world.

Being more kind. Being more thoughtful. Being more love.

I reflect on this irony after considering my own work schedule. When the year started, I outlined a half dozen key “important projects” to tackle.

Quickly, I devolved into driving hard and running fast. You know that grind. “Doing more for God,” I was meeting myself going and coming.

In recent weeks, during the Lenten season, however, I invited myself to pursue not projects, but His presence.

So I’m going s-l-o-w-e-r. Actually doing less. Giving my best to one thing. (For me, my humble writing.) But getting more done? Indeed.

Jesus invites us to this slower way when he says His believers “will do even greater things” than He did “because I am going to the Father” (John 14: 12-14 NIV).

Sending His Holy Spirit, he means, enables us to do greater things—not by our strength, but by His Spirit.

So help us, O Lord, to stop struggling in our own strength to be adequate at a zillion things. Instead, by His Spirit let’s “do” less for God by focusing on one great thing: Telling the world about Christ.

One person at a time.

Then He makes it more. He makes it count. He makes it great. A “simple” Mexican fisherman illustrates this blessed way. The Lord graciously invites us to start living it.

Patricia Raybon is an award-winning author of books and essays on mountain-moving faith.

For more inspiration, check out her pocket-sized devotional, Beautiful Blessings from God. Or consider the full-size version, covering the entire year—the One Year® God’s Great Blessings Devotional

To travel along on Patricia’s faith Journey, please click here.

All Scriptures quoted, unless noted otherwise, are the New Living Translation of the Holy Bible.

(The original Mexican Fisherman Story is commonly attributed to German writer Heinrich Böll, a widely published post-World War II writer who was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1972.)

Photo Credit: iStockphoto

26 thoughts on “Doing Less for God

    1. Yes, well most of us fall into that trap at least one or more times. Thank you for reminding us that multi-tasking is NOT more productive, that time spent relaxing with our family IS more productive.

      Carol Flohr Giles

  1. SIster Patricia, Grateful for this perspective. I will take time for reflection. I am on this journey to set priorities and boundaries. I get busy and distracted and find myself doing too many things that are not fulfilling. I must continue to remember that God allows the Holy Spirit to do His work through me. It is His work. Blessings.

    1. Amen! I can relate to your insight, Dr. Anne. May we allow the Holy Spirit to take our little and, with it, do His much. Thanks so much for commenting.

  2. A beautiful story that shows how complicated we make something that God intended to be simple in the first place. This piece helped remind me of something I’ve been struggling with. Thanks Patricia.

  3. Good Morning Pat,
    I logged on to take care of business then opened your blog.
    Indeed, I was warned while in my twenties not to pursue money as an end all. I focused on developing the skills that seemed to me to reflect my essence. So far, so good. These last four months in my life, however, have been
    very stressful with the demands attached to my taking care of basic business transactions. I had a conversation with God asking him to guide the process and stating that I would detach from trying to Control the outcome beyond respecting my vested interests. Guess what? The transactions bobbed and weaved, and bobbed and weaved, and the outcome was not what I initially expected, but it was perfect. As my son said, “It’s called serendipity!” (Overall, I see this period in my life as a “rapid growth period,” which I value most. Growth and development is what I’ve been committed to all of my life.)

    1. I can relate, Murial. We can overwork ourselves trying to “manage our business” and control the outcomes. So much better to let go and let God. Thanks so much for reading and replying. (I love your son’s insight, also, about serendipity!) Blessings today.

  4. I have been so caught up in the busyness of life so many times. I wanted to do everything I could for the Lord. I actually made myself very anxious and felt much less productive. I am 71 years old, still active, but passing off some of these projects to others. They are more than willing to take on a project that suits what they enjoy doing and I am happier knowing I share! Moderation in all things!

    1. Moderation–yes. Thank you, Kathy, for your reminder that it’s always wise to share the Lord’s work, or even hand it off completely to others. If He is in it, He will bless it. Moderation matters, indeed!

  5. Too often we measure productivity by physical, visble accomplishments: successful career, house cleaned, gourmet meal prepared. Scripture says, ” Be still, and know that I am God.” Our most challenging work, I believe, is to love the unlovable, remain silent when criticized, be thankful even in the storms, forgive those who have betrayed and hurt us, and pray fervently and faithfully for the burdens God places on our hearts. Now, if only I would consistently practice what I preach. I LOVED everything about your post, Patricia! Thanks for sharing your wisdom with us.

    1. Wonderful comment, Lela. Our ways AREN’T God’s ways. Nor are our ways the way He measures our “accomplishments.” Your list of our most challenging work is right on target. When we get off the treadmill of life, and turn back to the Lord, He graciously sets us back on track. Thanks for affirming this direction!

    1. Many thanks, Marlene! As a serious prayer warrior, your feedback means so much. Blessings and sincere thanks!

  6. Psalms 23:4; As one of HIS STAFF to another STAFF OF HIS , I LOVE YOU

    1. You’re a blessing, Carol. Sincere thanks for your encouraging words! Peace and love, Patricia

  7. Love your thoughts, if only all Christians would feel the same. What a wonderful world we could have. Love you Sister.

  8. Patricia, I had just read your final thought of Our Daily Bread and your writing regarding forgiveness ministered to me. As God would have it. It truly is a process and God provides what we need to release it. I then saw your website and was led to this blog. I just came out of a long season of being ‘busy’ and not ‘purposeful’, doing too much and still not getting ahead. God brought me back to a place of ‘resting’ in him, letting go of control, deadlines, distractions, etc. And during this time of refresh, it has allowed me to receive His plan and purpose for my life. Jeremiah 29:11. Thank you for your uplifting message. God Bless you!

    1. Blessings, Greta, and thanks so much for this kind feedback. Your journey to rest and peace in the Lord sounds wise, healthy and Spirit-led. I congratulate you on turning from your “busy” to His blessings. In recent months, I, too, released several extra activities and duties, leaving more time for prayer and purposeful service. I was telling my sister-in-law just last night how refreshing it feels not to be so over-scheduled and overworked. He’s already accomplished everything that we struggle to achieve on our own. I join you in letting Him work as you follow in His strength. May He be glorified as you walk this blessed path! Peace and joy today, Patricia

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *