My series concludes on whether or not Stephen Covey’s 7 Habits from The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People are Biblical. I’ve always appreciated his wisdom in my life and noted its impact in this tribute to a great man here. I’ve also appreciated two other books in my family that applied these habits: The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Families and The 7 Habits of Happy Kids. I highly recommend both.

But today we turn our attention to the seventh habit. It’s all about staying in shape so we can keep the the other six.

Habit 7: Sharpen the Saw

Covey often told a story to illustrate the wisdom of this habit:

Imagine for a moment that you’re trying to fell a tree. You’re sawing through this huge, thick tree trunk. Back and forth, back and forth you pull the heavy saw. You’ve been laboring at it all day long. You’ve hardly stopped for a minute. You’ve been working and sweating, and now you’re about halfway through. But you’re feeling so tired that you don’t see how you’re going to last another five minutes. You pause for a minute to catch your breath.

You look up and see another person a few yards away who has also been sawing a tree. You can’t believe your eyes! This person has sawed almost completely through his tree trunk! He started about the same time you did and his tree is about the same size as yours, but he stopped to rest every hour or so while you kept working away. Now he’s almost through, and you’re only halfway there.

“What’s going on?” you ask incredulously. “How in the world have you gotten so much more done than I have? You didn’t even stay with it all the time. You stopped to rest every hour! How come?”

The man turns and smiles. “Yes,” he replies. “You saw me stop every hour to rest, but what you didn’t see was that every time I rested, I also sharpened the saw!”

Everyone who hears that simple story can see the wisdom of the plan. Of course, it makes more sense to be sure our tools are sharp. Of course, more effort doesn’t necessarily mean greater success. Of course, we won’t be as productive if we don’t take time to intentionally sharpen ourselves for God’s use. But we still often live as if we will.

Is It Biblical to Sharpen the Saw?

Covey noted that the law of entropy governs the universe. Consequently, everything left to itself runs down. The Bible certainly supports that claim. A a result of the Fall, everything was plunged into death. Even creation itself feels the impact of our rebellious ways.  Solomon tells this story to make the point:

I passed by the field of a sluggard, by the vineyard of a man lacking sense, and behold, it was all overgrown with thorns; the ground was covered with nettles, and its stone wall was broken down. (Prov. 24:30-31 ESV)

Without patient care and diligent labor, the lazy man’s house soon looks like a service project waiting to happen. Solomon later added, “Know well the condition of your flocks, and give attention to your herds.” (Prov. 27:23 ESV) Implicit in this command is the understanding that if you don’t give them careful maintenance, your flocks (resources) will scatter — or worse.

Using the four areas of life that Stephen Covey used, we quickly see much obvious alignment with this habit and Scripture:

  • Physical. Exercising regularly and eating healthy foods to help keep you near your physical peak could only position you for greater service for Christ. The Bible says bodily exercise profits little compared to spiritual things — but it does profit. Let’s face it, when we’re not in shape physically we’re more prone to sleep through ministry opportunities than to seize them for Kingdom work.
  • Social. Building deep friendships, cultivating family relationships, and serving others all fit the description Covey gives for thus practice. As we’ve touched on in previous posts, we more fully reflect the image of God when we engage in relationship. And serving others? I’d have to quote half the Bible.
  • Mental. “In the beginning was the Word [Logic]” John opens his account of the life of Christ with this statement that the logos, or ultimate thought, is God. As an intellectually oriented fellow, I enjoy thinking about that one — no surprise there. We cultivate this area by reading, thinking, reflecting, planning — all topics we’ve touched on before in this series for Scriptural support.
  • Spiritual. Prayer, Scripture reading, meditating on the thoughts of others — Ok. That’s the easiest one yet. In my life, that take the form of daily time doing all of those each morning, long before anyone else is stirring. I’ve made it a habit — one that I must continually guard to keep it from slipping away.

The Question for You

The questions is are you being intentional about scheduling these vital renewal practices into your day, week, and month? Or are you allowing the tyranny of the urgent (Quadrant 1 activities) to rule your life?

Habit 1: Be Proactive. Remember, you’re in charge of you.

What’s it going to be?

In which of these areas have you had the most success? What regular habits have you developed to keep yourself sharp? Leave a comment with a click here to share what you’ve learned.

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