Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. (Ephesians 5:15-16)
Read: Ephesians 5:15-16; Ps. 144:3-4; Hebrews 11:13-16.
“I’d love to read my Bible daily, but I can never find the time.”
“Between my schedule and my kid’s schedule I just don’t have the time to attend a midweek study.”
“I have too much to do at work to really pray as much as I should.”
You’ve said something like this in your lifetime, I’ve said something like this—we’re all guilty of trying to pull the time card as an excuse for why we’ve let our spiritual disciplines go by the wayside. Sure, there are seasons when we are especially busy and our discretionary time is short. However, even in those times, if we are honest with ourselves, we know deep in our hearts that the lack-of-time excuse is bogus. If we took a serious account of our time, tracking what we do for every minute of the day, we would certainly locate pockets of wasted time.
Now, when I say “wasted time,” I’m not referring to periods of rest or relaxation or amusement. We are finite creatures with limitations, and all three activities—rest or relaxation or amusement—are not only necessary; they can be done in a way that glorifies God. When I speak of wasted time, I’m talking about time where our minds are not really engaged in our task and we’re just going through the motions merely in order to get to the next thing on our schedule. Or time that is spent doing frivolous things—things that don’t contribute to our growth, that don’t build up skills, and that don’t build up others; activities that are really just selfish time wasters. I am confident that when you read “frivolous time wasters” there was at least one thing your mind went to that you do on a regular basis that you know is just a time sink.
As Paul says in Ephesians 5:15-16, we need to look carefully how we walk, making the best use of our time. The Greek word he uses can also mean “to redeem.” Why would we need to redeem the time? Because, as the apostle says, “the days are evil.” Paul’s statement doesn’t imply that time is inherently evil, or that it’s out to destroy us. It means that we are prone to waste our days in sinful, or otherwise meaningless, activity. Thus, we need to be wise in how we spend our time. But why are we so prone to mismanage and waste our time? The full answer for that can take up an entire book, but I’ll just put forward two ways that we tend to look at time that contribute to our wasting of it.
First, we tend to severely underestimate how valuable our time truly is. “Man is like a breath,” David writes: “his days are like a passing shadow” (Ps 144:4). Our time on earth is short and we don’t know how long it will be. Every second we’ve been given is a tremendous gift from God that he has given us to steward well. Even as we get older and we get more of a sense of our mortality, we may tend not to view our time as being as valuable and limited as it is. This is why Moses prayed, “So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom” (Ps 90:12). Because we can tend to view our time as nearly unlimited—after all, we get a new twenty-four hours every single day—we are liable to spend that time as freely and recklessly as if we just won the lottery. That’s reason number one: We tend to view our time as a common resource when it is actually one of the most precious resources we have. Now, you might say, “I view my time as a precious commodity and I fill my day with all sorts of things to do!” That may be true. However, that gets us into our second point.
Secondly, we tend to waste our time because we have a short-sided view of what we should spend our time on. We all spend our lives on earth, and most of the things that we love are on earth. That’s wonderful! God has blessed each of us tremendously here on earth. However, we can tend to view our life on earth, and those wonderful blessings, as all that there is.
Maybe we wouldn’t say it that way, but it really is the case that what we value is reflected in how we spend our time. Unlike the heroes of faith in Hebrews 11, whose lives expressed that they desired the better country—the heavenly one (Heb 11:16)—we tend to spend our time on things that just make us happy in the here and now. We are tempted, by our flesh and by society, to chase after instant gratification instead of pursuing things that in the long run will give us lasting joy and a far better sense of gratification and achievement. As Paul says when speaking to the Corinthians about the resurrection of the dead that will occur when Christ returns, “If the dead are not raised, ‘Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die,’” (1 Cor 15:32). If there is no resurrection and no eternity with Christ, then let’s do whatever we want here and now on earth, because that’s all we’ve got. But as Paul says, the dead are raised. We have a glorious future with Christ that we have to remind ourselves about, and that should affect how we use our time. That tremendously valuable resource we’ve been given should be invested well.
The days are evil and they are short. Therefore, as Paul says earlier in Ephesians 6, “try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord,” (v. 10), for there is no better way for you to spend your time.
Discuss and Pray Together: Are there ways that you spend your time that you can improve? Who in your local church would be a good partner to help keep you accountable for making the most of your time?