Generally when we speak of stewarding the resources that God gives us, the discussion usually tends toward the financial side of things, and probably rightly so to a degree. Money is for many in our culture an all-consuming, ill-managed resource, and to focus on its abuse is often able to uncover more significant issues of the heart. Yet money is not the only way that we fall short in the stewardship that we have been given. The mismanagement (or lack of management) of our time can be just as a big spiritual hurdle as is the mismanagement of our money.
Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. –Eph. 5:15,16
To give a personal example, I have a tendency to sleep beyond the time that I plan (or more accurately, hope) to get up in the mornings. It’s usually only about 15 minutes that I oversleep, but that 15 minutes has a cascading effect on the rest of my morning. I know that each morning that it is necessary (it is necessary) for me to sit down on the couch, drink a cup of coffee, and reacclimate myself to the land of the living. I know that I’m going to do this regardless of what time I get up. When I wake up 15 minutes late, that means that the time before I have to get ready for work is consumed by my coffee-drinking, and it generally forces me to start getting ready later than I should (for IF timeOfDay = morning THEN coffee > work).
So I get up later than I should, then get ready later than I should, and then leave for work later than I should. Even if I get to work on time (which I usually somehow manage to do), the way that I get there is far from ideal. For rather than having the easy-going, pensive commute that I would love to have, I’m usually weaving in-and-out of traffic, driving faster than I ought to, all the while getting impatient and mildly angry at other drivers who have the audacity to drive the speed limit. And that’s just the driving part of my morning. Forget the fact that I haven’t read my Bible, said a prayer, or said a goodbye to my wife that didn’t have the doppler effect as I was flying out the door saying it.
Stewarding our time well is far more than keeping a calendar, but it’s realizing that there are important things in life that require our time and that we must be intentional in making time for them. In my case, I know that making time for Bible reading, prayer, and getting to work are important things, but time mismanagement puts them on the “optional” list. And it is not simply a matter of me not doing these things and my life is hunky dory after the morning is over, but it is a matter of my personal holiness and my failure at it. In other words, my not making time for those things in the morning usually requires me to make time for repentance later. The time crunch that I put myself in does not merely make me attempt to do things faster, but it puts me in a bad mood, compels me to break laws, and makes me impatient with others (likely with those who manage their time better than I do).
Time stewardship is not merely a matter of getting our schedules under control, but it is a matter of our sanctification.
I have been thinking on these things quite a bit lately, and I have also being reading What’s Best Next by Matt Perman, which has challenged how I think about them. I won’t try to summarize his points here, but I do mention it to recommend it. I will however say this: he makes the simple yet profound point that time is like space, in that there is only so much we can fit into our schedules. Realizing this forces us to identify our priorities and so make “the space” for what is important while eschewing what is not. I’m hoping that the practice of identifying and prioritizing priorities will help not only in my time management but also in my sanctification.
What’s Best Next by Matt Perman