“Do not wait for leaders; do it alone, person to person.” – Mother Teresa
About a month and a half ago my watch started behaving oddly. Overnight, as it sat on the nightstand, it gained time. One night, it gained about an hour and forty minutes. The next might it gained more than twenty minutes. The third night it gained nearly two hours! I hadn’t paid much for it but it had been accurate for years. Unfortunately, it would cost more to repair than it was worth, so it was time for a new watch.
I know many people don’t wear a watch. Our daughter, Monica, is one of them. But I’ve worn a watch for as long as I can remember. I also have early memories of Dad’s railroad pocket watch. Fortunately, I was able to find a new watch on clearance at a local department store so I shouldn’t have to worry again for a while. I’m able to order my life properly again and it’s a relief.
The Bible has a few things to say about time, about ordering our lives. One of the most well-known verses is Ecclesiastes 3:1: “For everything there is a season, and a time for every purpose under heaven:” (World English Bible). Peter wrote that, “[O]ne day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.” (2 Pet. 3:8b WEB). The Psalmist wrote confidently, “My times are in your hand.” (Psa. 31:15a WEB).
Closer to our own lives, Paul wrote to the Christians in Ephesus, “Therefore watch carefully how you walk, not as unwise, but as wise; redeeming the time, because the days are evil.” (Eph. 5:15-16 WEB). Unlike most modern translations—but like the King James Version—the WEB renders the first part of verse 16 as “redeeming the time,” which speaks to how we are called to live. The “days are evil” and they must be “redeemed.” The word translated “redeeming” is the Greek word “exagorazó,” which means “to buy out from” or “to ransom.” One English definition of “redeem” is “to offset the bad effect of” or “to make worthwhile.” We are called to make our days, our time worthwhile.
But if you’re anything like me, you don’t “redeem” much of your time. I spend far too much of my time watching television, surfing the Internet, complaining to coworkers, talking about politics or the news, or just doing nothing. Many of us are accustomed to thinking of Sunday or “the Sabbath” (Exod. 20:8-11) as “the Lord’s day,” to be dedicated to God. Even if we merely give a “tithe” (10%) of our waking hours, that’s over 11 hours a week. Compared with the amount of time I spend on other pursuits, the time I spend praying, reading the Bible, or meditating about God is truly minuscule, nowhere near 11 hours, let alone a day. Every month, I thank God for inspiring me to write these columns because they give me incentive to study my Bible.
The Bible says we’re supposed to be guided by God: “A man’s heart plans his course, but Yahweh [God] directs his steps.” (Prov. 16:9 WEB). In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said, “‘But seek first God’s Kingdom, and his righteousness; and all these things will be given to you as well.’” (Matt. 6:33 WEB). If we put God first, everything else will follow in its natural place.
During Lent, we often decide to “give up” or sacrifice something. What if we “gave up” wasting time? Each moment of each day, we have an opportunity to choose how we will spend that moment. Will we spend it for God or for something else? Will we “redeem” it or let it continue to be “evil”? Will we be productive citizens of God’s “kingdom” or a drain on its resources? As he did to the Ephesians, Paul wrote to the Colossians, “Walk in wisdom toward those who are outside, redeeming the time.” (Col. 4:5 WEB). As others around us see how we spend our time, they will recognize our priorities and the way in which God works in our lives.
“When a man’s ways please Yahweh,
he makes even his enemies to be at peace with him.
Better is a little with righteousness,
than great revenues with injustice.
A man’s heart plans his course,
but Yahweh directs his steps.” (Prov. 16:7-9 WEB.)