Time is Precious1
A couple months ago, the New York Times released an article entitled "Facebook Has 50 Minutes of Your Time Each Day. It Wants More." According to Facebook, 50 minutes is the average amount of time each user spends each day on Facebook, Instagram and Messenger platforms (not counting WhatsApp).
According to the article, Facebook is now second-place for time spent per day on a leisure activity. First place (at 2.8 hours per day) is watching TV and movies. Reading comes in at 19 minutes, and exercise weighs in at 17 minutes.
According to another source, back in April 2016, Snapchat reported that global active users spend 25-30 minutes per day on the app.
Why do companies even bother to monitor these things? Are they that insecure? No. The answer is much simpler—money (and lots of it). The more time people spend on any kind of media, the more the corresponding company can charge for ads because they are affecting people more (don't think these ads aren't affecting you).
As Christians, any discussion about time and money shouldn't just be for the sake of trivia. They should be an opportunity to reflect on the concept of stewardship.
The 1988 Webster's New World Dictionary in my office includes the following definition of a steward: "a person morally responsible for the careful use of money, time, talents, or other resources, esp. with respect to to the principles or needs of a community or group."
That's a pretty good definition. To be a steward is to recognize that what you have is not yours ultimately. I don't think it's wrong to say that something is yours, but you need to keep the proper perspective. Something is yours in the sense that you are responsible for it and in charge of it (even if for a limited time). But it's not yours in the sense that nobody else has a claim to it or that you will not have to give an account. You and I are ultimately accountable—not to our families, not to our church—to Jesus Christ. Your money, your time, your abilities, your body all belong to Him, and He calls you to use them for His purposes.
The words of Jesus in Matthew 25:14-30 highlight this very principle. Those slaves who used what they received to further the business of their master received a reward. The slave that didn't was punished. And notice, the slave that was punished didn't lose what he had been given. He didn't spend a dime. But he still wasted it, because he didn't put it to work for the master.
Jesus ends that parable by saying that every "worthless slave" will be thrown into hell. His choices in life demonstrated that he was not truly interested in serving the Master. This is a sobering reminder to all of us. A life not invested in the kingdom of God will lead to hell.
Jesus repeats this idea again in vv. 31-46. The cursed ones are cast into the eternal fire, and the reason Jesus gives is not because they lived a life of gross sin. They neglected to use their resources (e.g. time, money, homes) to serve Christ.
How are you being a good steward of your time and your possessions? What do your choices in life (time and money) demonstrate about what you love and what you value? Is it possible that you are simply self-deceived about your love for Christ and His church and His calling?
Making the right decisions isn't easy. The default position of our fallen nature and of this fallen world is evil. That what Paul says in Ephesians 5:16: "The days are evil."
So, how should we respond? "Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time" (vv. 15-16).
We need a careful approach. We need a holy wisdom. And we need an intense investment in the things of Christ. The beginning of verse 16 has been translated (and paraphrased) a few different ways:
- NASB: "making the most of your time"
- ESV: "making the best use of the time"
- HCSB: "making the most of the time"
- NIV: "making the most of every opportunity"
- NET: "taking advantage of every opportunity"
- NCV: "use every chance you have for doing good"
A literal translation of this verse is "redeeming the time" (which is how the KJV translates it). The word "redeem" has the idea of personally investing for a positive outcome. We were cursed under sin, but Christ redeemed us from the curse of the Law (Gal 3:13; 4:15). He improved our condition.
In the same way, we can improve the effectiveness of our lives, but it will cost us something.
Imagine if tomorrow morning, gas prices dropped to 5¢/gallon for one hour, and you could even buy vouchers for a gallon of gas in the future. How much gas would you buy? How many vouchers would you buy? You'd snatch all you could. Because gas is precious. And soon the price is going back up. That's the idea behind what Paul is saying.
Yes there is a personal cost. But we need to intensely invest as much as we can for the glory of God. Because time is precious. And because the days are evil.
How many minutes of your time does God have every day? In case you don't get it by now: He wants more.