Stewardship of Time
As we celebrate Thanksgiving Day this month, it is quite natural for most of us to recount many of the blessings we enjoy and to give thanks to God for them. This is good, for God has indeed given us immeasurably rich blessings, both material and spiritual. Who can count them? Not only has He given us everything essential for daily life, but so much beyond that. We enjoy an extremely high standard of living, with an immense variety of goods at our disposal.
How do we adequately thank God for the varied gifts of His grace? Surely, just saying thank you is not enough. Our lives must correspond to the words uttered with our mouths. We are to show our gratitude by living obediently and faithfully before Him.
One aspect of living obediently is the proper stewardship of our blessings, and one of these blessings is time. Time is something given to each of us in equal amounts. We all have at our disposal 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.
How are we to use this blessing? How are we to be good stewards of it? How we use time shows either wisdom or foolishness.
The Apostle Paul wrote, "Be very careful, then, how you live — not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil."Ephesians 5:15-16
To fully understand Paul here, we need to remember that God's whole redemptive plan has been historical — taking place in time. Every single event in the entire course of history has been and is another paragraph written by God in the unfolding of His great plan of redemption. Therefore, every event has eternal significance. Every moment is of consequence. Since time, then, is so extremely important, we are to live carefully, wisely, circumspectly, making the most of every opportunity.
There is a great battle taking place in history, a very real conflict between good and evil. To advance in this battle we must make good use of time "because the days are evil." They must be redeemed from evil for good by Christians.
We must make the most of every opportunity, of every specific moment, of every hour, of every day. We must be aware of what God is doing in history, even in this last decade of the 20th century and make a contribution for good. We must redeem the time, not waiting for opportunity to fall into our laps, but seizing opportunity, buying it up and not counting the cost.
Any moment lost cannot be regained. Every opportunity missed will never return. There may be no opportunity tomorrow; therefore, we had better redeem the time now — today.
For too many of us, time is not as important as it should be. We waste so much of it; we squander it on insignificant things and then don't have enough left for the really important things in life. How often have we said, "I don't have enough time for that"? How often have we missed opportunities given by God to further His cause?
One of the most obvious misuses of our time, I believe, is our preoccupation with leisure and recreation. Most of our leisure time is spent frivolously, particularly in watching mindless television shows. Much recreation is really not recreation at all. The proper idea of recreation is that it recreate us, reanimate us, give fresh life to us after toil. Ironically, a great deal of recreation wearies our bodies and dulls our minds. Movies and television and some sports (professional wrestling?) largely appeal to the basest instincts of the human heart; they are often an outrage of the Christian's sense of what is decent and proper. How then can they refresh us?
Should we not transfer most of our leisure/recreational time to more worthwhile endeavors? That would give us opportunity for some of those things we "never have time for," things we know we should be doing as Christians but just never accomplish — things like:
writing letters (to government officials, urging a vote for or against a proposal; to sponsors of television programs, objecting to or commending their sponsoring of certain shows; to editors of journals and newspapers, praising or criticizing articles; to missionaries, assuring them of support; to aged relatives, relieving loneliness; to friends, giving encouragement);
participating in pro-family and pro-life organizations, volunteering time to them;
getting involved in support groups of various kinds — for unwed mothers, single parents, battered wives, disabled children, or literally dozens of others;
volunteering in a school as an aide or a tutor;
being a big brother or big sister (or grandmother or grandfather?) to a fatherless or motherless youngster;
showing hospitality to the lonely, the widowed, the divorced, the aged, the fatherless;
teaching Sunday School or Bible school or an after-school Bible club;
visiting and encouraging those who are sick or confined in some way;
helping with prison ministries;
spending more time with our own families, growing together in love for each other and the Lord; or helping with countless other things that redeem the evil days for good (the list could go on).
Many of these things would recreate and refresh us more than most "recreation" does. If every moment of every day is eternally significant, we must seize the moment to do something good.
Another aspect of our stewardship of time involves our employment. How do we use that time? Paul wrote to Titus, "Teach slaves to be subject to their masters in everything, to try to please them, not to talk back to them, and not to steal from them, but to show that they can be fully trusted, so that in every way they will make the teaching about God our Savior attractive" (2:9-10).
If these words applied to slaves, who were involuntarily working for their masters, how much more do they apply to us, who are in voluntary employment to our employers? Yet how guilty we often are of stealing time from our employers when we don't give our best or when we actually work less time than that for which we are paid. This is not good stewardship. We must give a good account of our time to our employers so that we "will make the teaching about God our Savior attractive." If we are to live wisely and circumspectly, we must bear in mind that, though few people may read God's Word, they all will read us. How we perform our jobs speaks volumes to others.
A third aspect of good stewardship of time concerns our observance of the Sabbath. How do we spend our time on Sunday? Are the hours of this day spent in the pursuit of personal pleasure or in worshiping God with God's people in God's house? Do we clutter up Sunday with personal activities and pleasures or do we keep it free for God?
What wonderful opportunity Sunday gives us to be fortified in our faith, to be enriched in our Christian life, and to expand in our knowledge of God's Word. Not only is there the opportunity to hear God's Word preached and taught, but there is also time for us individually to study (not just read, but STUDY) the Bible, to read Christian books and Christian magazines.
Are we seizing the opportunity Sunday offers? Or are we wasting it — perhaps even wasting the time spent in church by not worshiping devotedly or listening attentively?
There is a wonderful promise for us in Isaiah: "If you keep your feet from breaking the Sabbath and from doing as you please on my holy day, if you call the Sabbath a delight and the Lord's holy day honorable, and if you honor it by not going your own way and not doing as you please or speaking idle words, then you will find your joy in the Lord, and I will cause you to ride on the heights of the land and to feast on the inheritance of your father Jacob."Isaiah 58:13-14
Would that we might seize the opportunity that Sunday affords us to mature as Christians.
One further aspect for us to consider in this discussion of proper stewardship of time is our conversation.
Paul wrote, "Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone" (Colossians 4:5-6). The wise Christian will watch his tongue. His speech will be gracious whether talking about the gospel or the weather. It will be seasoned with salt; that is, it will be worthwhile, not banal; it will have substance; it will not be pointless. In short, it will not be a waste of time.
If every moment is of eternal significance, then likewise also is each word we speak. Every opportunity must be grasped to redeem the days from evil for good.
Redeeming the Time
As wise Christians then, we will strive to become ever more conscious of the way we use our time. Realizing the real value and significance of every moment, we will live more circumspectly.
Redeeming the time must become a natural part of our life style. Time wasted on the unnecessary or frivolous must be replaced with time spent on the important. Our leisure/recreation time must really recreate and refresh us, both physically and mentally. The time spent in our daily jobs must be witness to what Christ has done for us. Sundays must be kept free for God. Our conversation must show that the grace of God has been operative in our hearts. Our life styles must reflect, in the way we use our time, that we belong to God.
To cease wasting time and to look for more ways to make better use of our time is to live wisely and thankfully. Imitating Jesus Christ is our aim, and He used every moment to the best advantage. He did not wait for opportunity to fall into His lap; rather, He seized every opportunity and made the most of it.