Would Jesus Keep a To-Do List?

I don’t think he would have (or did) because, knowing all things and being completely filled with the Spirit, he would not need any external reminders. It is literally impossible (both now, and when he was on earth) for Jesus to forget any obligation that he has. (And he does have obligations — that is, things he needs to get done — but they are only the arrangements he freely enters into, which are founded in the promises he has made in the Scriptures.)

But, I’ve never thought that “what would Jesus do” is necessarily the best question. It is a helpful question. But since we are not Jesus (for example, we are not omniscient), the more precise question is “what would Jesus have me do?”

And I think he would say this about to-do lists: “If you can keep all your commitments and get done what you are called to do without writing anything down, no problem. But if you have more to do than your memory is able to hold, one of the other reasons I’ve given you a mind is so that you can figure out a better way to keep track of everything than just keeping it in your head. So go, do what you need to do to remember what you need to remember in order to get done what you need to get done.”

Something like that.

  • Jason Case

    Conquer sin and death – CHECK

  • http://www.gcbiblechurch.org Jason Whitley

    Matt, being a former GTD fan, I really appreciate your blog!

    Thanks for this post. One thought – I don’t think I would answer that he didn’t have to write because “he knows all things.” I truly believe Jesus demonstrated complete humanity in the gospels and laid aside the “independent use of his divine attributes” (Phil. 2:5ff). He even asked such questions as “Where did they lay him?” in regards to Lazarus. In other words, I believe he lived with limitations, and that included growing in wisdom (Luke 2:52)and growth means room for improvement (though not room for improvement out of sin or evil) but applying more wisdom to areas as they became available. I think Jesus had to work at thinking and remembering and memorizing the OT, as we do and as did other Jewish boys during his time. However, with no sin, I would assume his mind was similar to Adam’s mind – free of corruption and able to retain much more information (naming all the animals and not forgetting one!) Maybe he wrote lists, maybe he didn’t. He may have had such a good memory he didn’t need to do so. But I think he had to still work at remembering, at least to some small degree – just maybe considerably less than we do.

  • http://twitter.com/epaga John

    I was just going to post almost exactly what Jason posted. So I won’t and will instead post that I was just going to post almost exactly what Jason posted.

  • Rob

    Great Post. Thanks for writing it.

    Sometimes some guilt creeps in when I need to schedule calls into a system so I remember to keep in touch with the people I care about. If I really cared about them, I wouldn’t need to schedule calls right??? Not exactly. This post was an encouragement.

  • Patrick O.

    This seems like it is not an adequate answer to the provocative title.

    Are there non-desirable personality traits inherent in those types of people that make, and complete, to-do lists? Is one too Type-A if they keep a to-do list? Was Jesus more take-them-as-they-come, or would he have stuck to his list and prioritized it daily? How organized is too organized? Can one be too organized? Etc.

    I think it’s a good question, but the answer was very vague, not helpful to me. I don’t meant to be too critical, and I’m trying to be honest without crossing that line.

  • http://www.lifeofasteward.com Loren Pinilis

    Another thing to mention is that God works through agents. Sometimes those agents are angels, sometimes people – and sometimes systems. For instance, part of the way he cared for the poor was by instituting the charitable aspects of the law (such as gleanings).
    Perhaps Jesus would have used a to-do list – not to compensate for any sin, but to take full advantage of God’s gifts and workings in the form of productivity concepts.

  • http://biblefunfactory.com/ Margo, Bible Fun Factory

    Before I read the post, I thought about the title for quite some time and found that I agree with you completely. I don’t think that Jesus would have to keep a to-do list, because he’s got it all going on inside. That being said, I know one person who definitely needs a to-do list—me! I have such a hard time remembering things! Thanks for this great post.

  • http://staffaction.blogspot.com staffaction

    This is a good discussion. I echo most and Patrick O. resonates with me primarily because I don’t see the answer as very helpful.

    The WWJD question is only helpful if we are to learn from it for ourselves, so we can follow in his steps. Further, the Christian life is more than “doing”. It is also “being”. The things Jesus did (his activities, accomplishments etc.) were born out of who he was: his view of God, himself, others, his prayer life, communion w/ the Spirit, and so forth.

    We do know that he had an agenda and he followed the will of His Father to the t. Was he also “spontaneous” (what we may term “type B”)? Yes, in a way, or by appearances. He was able to respond to the “urgent” or “surprise” events because 1) his schedule wasn’t maxed out to the point where He had no margin and 2) He was constantly in step with The Spirit, submitting to His Father’s will as it was revealed to him, even if it meant making sacrifices (of meals, sleep, etc.)

    So the real question is not “Did Jesus keep a to-do list?” but: “Why did he or did he not keep one?” In other words, “What was the dominant attitude and motivation behind his choices and agenda.” That is something we can learn from and imitate, regardless of the existence of lists in our lives.

  • Matt

    Jason/John: Great points and questions, and I actually thought about addressing them in the post.

    I agree that Jesus, in his human nature, had real limitations. He was hungry, he slept, and I even agree he had to read the Old Testament and memorize it. And, in the learning process, he probably had to review passages to keep from forgetting them, just as we have to.

    I thought about suggesting in the post that, because of the limitations of his human nature, he might have needed a “to-do” list just like he needed food. It wouldn’t imply any imperfection on his part, but simply the fact that he is truly human.

    However, one thing made me think he probably did not keep a to-do list or calendar (aside from the fact that paper was probably hard to come by and I’ve never heard any evidence it was much of a practice back then!). The reason is that if Jesus _had_ to do something, then it would be impossible for him not to follow through. So a to-do list would not be essential. We could say “he would always make sure to remember to look at his list at the right time,” but that would seem to get a bit too involved. I think the One who is the essence of integrity and truth, who is truth itself, would not need a to-do list, at least to _remember_ his commitments at the right time. If he wanted to write things down in order to make it easier to prioritize things at the moment, I suppose I wouldn’t see a problem with that…

    The greater reason, though, is Jesus’ statements that he is always doing what he sees the Father doing. Jesus’ point seems to be that everything he does is divinely inspired — not simply in the sense that he himself is divine, but in the sense that he is continually manifesting the will of the Father as well as his own. When he works, the Father himself is working. When he speaks, the Father himself is speaking. So the ultimate reason I’m thinking Jesus didn’t keep a to-do list was because he operated by direct inspiration.

    However, that’s probably not an open and shut case. There may indeed be an analogy here between Jesus’ getting tired, needing to eat, and being able to find a to-do list useful.

  • http://www.gcbiblechurch.org Jason Whitley

    Thanks Matt!

  • Mark L.

    I live in the Middle East, and most people here do not write “to-do lists” or notes at all for that matter, even though they are literate and paper is readily available. It’s just not their custom. They also are a lot better at remembering things that most westerners. But they will still forget from time to time because they are flawed, sinful human beings.

    I don’t believe it’s always a sin to forget, but I do know personally that I often forget because I don’t care enough. Jesus would have cared enough about people’s needs to always be taking them to the Father until the need was resolved. I don’t see this as a case of being omniscient, but being without sin and having perfect compassion. I also don’t see Jesus ever making a commitment He didn’t fully intend to keep. As for me, I’m not there yet on either account, so I need to make lists. Maybe when I’m perfect I won’t need to (sarcasm font).

    A pastor who mentored me taught me that “every detail is a person,” and pushed me to get organized. This was really wise advice for type B, pastor-types who think they care about people but forget details. Behind all those to-do items is a person with a need.

  • http://callmom.co Erin Lichnovsky

    As moms we often struggle with the martha / mary syndrome. I appreciate your insights on productivity.