by Bob Burridge ©2015
Note: Bible quotations are from the English Standard Version unless otherwise noted.
One of the most common excuses we often hear is, “I just don’t have time for that.” It might be the reason why something didn’t get done, or why something couldn’t be put on the schedule. It can at times be a poor excuse for not doing things we should do. There are also times when it’s a very wise and good excuse. No one is able to do everything, so decisions have to be made about how we prioritize things.
We each have different talents, obligations, or material things to manage in our lives. But we all have the same amount of time. We have 168 hours every week divided into seven 24-hour days.
Some feel pressures and frustrations from overly busy schedules. Others are bored, and feel they are wasting away their lives. Both extremes are a result of a failure to wisely budget time according to God’s principles.
One of our duties before God is to be good and faithful stewards of the time he entrusts to us. Ephesians 5:15-17 explains this Christian responsibility.
“Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.”
Verse 15: We have a duty to live in an alert and wise manner.
“Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise.”
The fallen human nature has built up a culture of evil which surrounds all of us. What it offers can entice us to be poor stewards of what our Lord entrusts to us. We are to use all things in ways that please him. This includes our possessions, our talents, and our time. Therefore we need to walk carefully in all wisdom, not foolishly.
Verse 16: We should seize opportunities as they come.
“… making the best use of the time, because the days are evil.”
The King James says, “Redeeming the time”, and the New American Standard has, “making the most of your time.”
The verb in this verse is the ancient Greek word, “exagorazomenoi” (ἐξαγοραζόμενοι). The “Agora” (ἀγορά) in the first century was the “gathering place” in cities where people came for sports, civic events and shopping. The verb “agorazo” (αγοραζω) means “to buy” or “to purchase” something as you would in the market place, the Agora.
The form of the word here adds a prefix “ex” (εξ) which means “out of”. The compound word means “to buy out of” or “to buy back”. In this sense it’s sometimes used for “redeeming” something. That’s when a ransom is paid, or when a price is paid for freedom. This word is used to describe how Jesus Christ died in our place to buy us out of our bondage to the curse pronounced by God’s law. He “redeemed” us (Galatians 3:13, 4:5).
Here in Ephesians 5:16 and in Colossians 4:5 the word is in a different form. The verb is in the form of a participle in the “middle voice” which has to do with the buying out of something for one’s self.
The thing we are to secure for ourselves here is “time”. The word translated that way is “kairon” (καιρόν). The kind of “time” referred to in this case seems to be a “season”, “moment”, or “opportunity.” We are being told that we must carefully buy up each moment of opportunity.
Then Paul explained why it is such an urgent matter, and why it should concern us. It’s because the days we live in are evil. This warning is preserved in Scripture because the problem is not limited to the era Paul lived in. It’s a characteristic of the whole era since the fall of man and before the final day of Judgment. The surrounding wickedness can tempt us to pass up good opportunities for being responsible children of God. Our duty is to live carefully and responsibly in the midst of an antagonistic world.
Verse 17: The manner of doing this is determined by the revealed will of God.
“Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.”
Very literally this verse could be translated, “Because of this you should not be foolish, but understand what is the will of the Lord.” The Bible gives us the principles that need to be considered as we budget our time.
It is our duty to recognize the importance
of every hour our Lord entrusts to us.
There are many things that necessarily take up our time. There are also some things we do to simply enjoy the wonders and beauties of God’s creation. However, it can become a problem if we become obsessed with activities which take up more time than is wise. They diminish the time we should be taking for things God commands us to do.
1. First we need to consider our necessities:
These are the things which keep alive and healthy.
We need to spend some time every day in sleep, getting dressed, eating, and taking care of various needs for personal hygiene. We also need exercise if our regular activities don’t provide it.
If we sleep 8 hours every day, that leaves 112 waking hours to manage each week, 16 hours each day. Studies have indicated that eating, getting dressed, showers, shaving and other parts of personal hygiene average about 3 hours every day. That comes to 21 hours every week. Sleep and these other necessities leave us with 91 hours to manage each week, or 13 hours for each day.
2. Then we have to consider our duties:
God calls us to some obligations we ought not neglect.
A. Church Worship and Activities
One day each week is set aside for worship and ceasing from our regular labors. This Creation Sabbath Day was established in Eden when Adam represented the entire human race. A minimum of one hour is spent in worship on Sundays. Most faithful church members also spend another hour attending Sunday School classes. Some churches include some fellowship time or an evening worship service on Sundays.
We also have to consider commuting time for traveling to and from church. As with other days, on Sundays we sleep for 8 hours, and spend another 3 hours on things like eating, showering, getting dressed, and other personal hygiene matters. There are often other activities during the week such as Bible studies, prayer meetings, committee meetings, or other things we do to serve the congregation’s needs.
This means that out of those 91 weekly hours, we average a minimum of about 3 hours weekly for church activities. This leaves us with 88 remaining hours to manage.
B. Some time must be spent earning our daily provisions.
This is another duty God commands of us. In our economy an average work week is 40 hours. Many businesses require more. Some who do not have to work full time will put in less time for this. There is also commuting time that must be considered in most cases. For young people in our homes about this same time is taken up with school work.
C. There are also labors which must be done in maintaining the home.
Included in that would be the work of shopping, food preparation, laundry, cleaning, paying bills, home repairs, etc. These chores can often take up another 30 hours each week. These jobs can be divided up among all the members of the family. Some family members will need to devote more time to that than others. In some homes there may be an adult not working full time who takes care of many of the chores. If we assume one hour per day in commuting to and from work or school five days for each 40 hour work-week, and about 4 hours of chores, we end up with about 49 hours spent in these labors.
Of the 168 hours in each week, we spend 56 sleeping, 21 in personal necessities, 3 for church activities, 45 for work and commuting, and 4 for home chores. That leaves us with only 39 hours to invest each week.
This gives us the daily time remaining for us to budget.
Week Days: 24 hours – 20 (sleep, work, commuting, hygiene) = 4 hours
Sundays: 24 hours – 14 (sleep, church, hygiene) = 10 hours
Saturdays: 24 hours – 11 (sleep, hygiene) = 13 hours
This does not include any of our home chores.
3. Time for our home and families.
It’s very important for families to set aside time to pray and study God’s word together. It helps to have a set time every day for that, maybe after evening meals. Time should be budgeted for good family activities when memories are made, and the children are shown love and concern for one another on a direct and personal level.
4. We should take time to enjoy God’s amazing creation.
We were created to be able to take in and enjoy the beauties of all God made. The redeemed are made able to appreciate the glory of the Creator displayed in it all. We should take opportunities to hike through the woods, to walk barefoot in the sand along the beach, to stand amazed at moving clouds, sunsets, and the stars and planets as they display their beauty in the sky above us.
God has given us friends to encourage and enjoy. We have opportunities to appreciate good books, movies, music, and various forms of art. The list could go on and on. But these enjoyable times need to be moderated. It’s tempting to let our appreciation for beauty and fun keep us from our responsibilities.
We need to budget our time so that we invest it first of all with the most important responsibilities. We should avoid irresponsibly squandering the time we need for our obligations and duties.
God created us to be able to rest and to enjoy the refreshment of sleep and relaxation, but we should not let our love of rest make us lazy and unproductive. On the other hand our opportunities to earn money or to enjoy hobbies should not become such an obsession that we ignore our loved ones, skip our times of worship and Bible study, or neglect things needed to keep us healthy. We ought to consider and invest each hour for its best return in honoring God with our time.
Poor time management results in serious problems.
Irresponsibility produces guilt. When we neglect necessities like sleep, eating, or proper hygiene, we pay with our health, and reduce our ability to live for God’s glory. When we neglect our worship of God, our fellowship with other members of our church, time with our families, or the duties of our labor, we commit the sin of sloth. Sin is not only the transgression of God’s moral principles, it is also a want of conforming to them.
At the other extreme unrealistic expectations can lead to stress and guilt. When demands that can’t be reasonably met are made, we may experience guilt from having failed to reach those goals, or from failing to deliver on our promises. This can bring about depression and bitterness about failed or overwhelming projects. It might make us overly sensitive about the comments or actions of others, always seeing them as being critical of us. A pile of unfinished projects are haunting reminders of failure
A suggested approach in developing a solution:
Good stewardship involves a plan that considers what God says is most important.
1 Corinthians 14:33, “for God is not a God of confusion but of peace, as in all the churches of the saints.”
1 Corinthians 14:40, “But all things should be done decently and in order.”
A suggested plan of attack:
1. List your weekly activities, estimate the time each requires.
Be sure to include sleep, meals, hygiene, choosing outfits and getting dressed, taking medications, shopping, home and property maintenance, church responsibilities, job or school schedule, commuting times, devotional and family time, and any other things that are part of a normal week. Don’t forget to estimate how much time you spend communicating on the phone, texting, e-mailing, playing games, checking things on the Internet, and all the other things that add up as significant by the end of the week.
Some activities take up a fixed amount of time that changes little from week to week. Other activities will vary in length so the time they take should be noted as variable.
People often have an unrealistic view of the time available to them for budgeting. A concerned Pastor surveyed his congregation asking them how many weekly hours they thought he should spend on each item on a list of pastoral duties. The average times suggested by the congregation unrealistically totaled 82 hours per week! One questionnaire totaled up to a 200 hour work week (a week is only 168 hours long). We all need to evaluate all our activities realistically before we begin scheduling the rest of our time.
2. Then by each item, classify it by priority.
Some things commonly accepted as necessary may not be. Time can be wasted away by things we have come to think of as most important, when in reality we could get along quite well without them.
Things not evil in themselves, even good things, can become evil if they interfere with or keep us from taking care of our health, church duties, our labor, or family. We need to avoid letting good things keep us from faithfully encouraging our spouses or children. Conflicts, frustrations and neglect often arise in our daily schedules because we tend to confuse our interests and desires with our God-given duties.
One way to prioritize is to mark each activity as either “Necessary” or “Optional”.
3. Do a time audit for a week to see if your estimates are accurate.
Honestly record how you spend every segment of the day. I use a chart or spreadsheet and break the day into 15 minute segments. This will help you discover how you are actually spending your time. Be thorough and accurate. The goal is to confirm how you actually use your time.
4. Based upon your findings develop a realistic schedule.
Start a fresh chart or spreadsheet with the fixed necessary activities already marked out. Then plan the remaining time realistically. Prayerfully try to follow your new schedule.
5. Modify the schedule as you use it.
A good plan recognizes that there will be exceptions to anticipate, and adjustments which must be made from time to time. If a priority item needs to change it should not be just eliminated or forgotten. It should be moved to place on your schedule set aside for optional activities.
Make sure time is not being wasted, and that important opportunities are being seized. If the schedule is not working, change it, but don’t give up. Time budgeting is an on-going process since life keeps changing.
Orderliness leads to peace and accomplishment without sacrificing family, church and personal joy. When God’s priorities are honored and duties are not neglected a person’s free time feels truly free and not stolen from God.