Where the world comes to study the Bible

3.1. The Stewardship of Time

Multiplying the Life Through Redeeming the Time


There are many inequities in the world, but one thing we all have in common is the same amount of time each day. God has allotted twenty-four hours to each one of us. Perhaps, because we are products of our fast-paced society, we tend to think and act as though God has short changed us when it comes to time. It is not uncommon to hear comments like, “There just isn’t enough time in a day to do everything I need to do.” “I just don’t know where the time goes.” “I’ll try to find time, but I’m hard pressed for time at the present.” In our day when many people meet themselves coming and going, most people feel pushed for time. The feeling is that there simply aren’t enough hours in a day. Life with all its demands is far too busy.

We fill our conversations with phrases which convey the rush of our modern times. Along with the statements just mentioned, we speak of the peak or rush hour of the day, or we tell family members to get a move on because we don’t have all day. We regularly use words like urgent, priority, or pressing. There was a time when we viewed telegrams as adequate for sending vital information. But today, not only do we have the telephone, fax, email, and the Internet, but we have priority mail, even next-day delivery so we can send an important document or package the very next day thousands of miles away.

With all our modern conveniences and technological advances we should have more leisure time than any period in history, but the opposite is really the case. For most people it’s run, run, run, go, go, go, and so much so most people seem to be out of breath. How ironic.

Robert Banks has an interesting note on this for the Christian.

With respect to time, Christians are a good deal worse off than many. This is especially the case if they live in a large city, belong to the middle-classes, have managerial or professional positions, or combine outside employment with substantial household responsibilities.

Christians and people raised in a Christian setting tend to take their work more seriously than others. They also place a high value on family obligations. And they are often in the forefront of community and charitable associations. The upshot of this commitment to work, community and family is, as my eldest son commented: ‘Christians are like trains—always on the move, always in a rush, and always late.’104

If you are a pastor of a large church (and many pastors of small churches don’t fair much better), time is even more critical. Due to the extreme demands and unreasonable expectations placed on pastors, finding time to fulfill all these expectations is virtually impossible. They literally bump into themselves in the process of trying to meet their schedule. Pastors and their wives are often like ships passing in the night.

The Purpose of This Study

The design of this study and its focus is certainly not to get Christians busier. It is not busier lives that we need. What is needed is a better use of the time we have combined with a biblical view of time on earth from the standpoint of who we are as Christians, where we are, what we should and should not expect from this world, and why we are here.

In our performance-oriented society, activity that produces some kind of result is placed at a premium and time is viewed from a utilitarian standpoint. Unless we can see some kind of obvious yield, the time spent is viewed as wasted time. Whatever we do must be accomplishing something tangible and this includes even our time spent in worship whether alone or gathered with the body of Christ.

Most of us sense something else about time: it is a resource. Moreover, it is a unique resource. It cannot be accumulated like money or stockpiled like raw materials. We are forced to spend it, whether we choose to or not, and at a fixed rate of 60 seconds every minute. It cannot be turned on and off like a machine or replaced like a man. It is irretrievable.105

Of course, time is a resource and we should not waste the time God has given us. Scripture addresses this issue. But is play, leisure, rest, and simply smelling the roses a waste of time? Hardly! We have reached the point, however, where even leisure time has taken on a kind of utilitarian bent. We must see our time off from work, no matter what the reason (worship, leisure, play, etc.), as a means of making us more effective in the workplace or in Christian service. Though there is some truth to this, have we not carried it too far?

Writing to draw our attention to the importance and need of learning to relax and enjoy leisure time, Swindoll says:

Work is fast becoming the American Christian’s major source of identity. The answer to most of our problems (we are told) is “work harder.” And to add the ultimate pressure, “You aren’t really serving the Lord unless you consistently push yourself to the point of fatigue.” It’s the old burn-out-rather-than-rust-out line.106

The problem we each face in our society today is not the amount of time a sovereign God has allotted to us, but our view of time and life itself, and how we use the time we have.

As the Eternal One, God is not limited by time as we are. He is the sovereign of time. With Him one day is as a thousand years and a thousand years as one day (1 Tim. 1:17; cf. 2 Pet. 3:8). He sees the past, present, and the future as one. But unlike God, temporal and finite man is confined to twenty-four hours each day and to a certain number of days in the life which God allots him.

This does not mean, however, that man’s temporal life is meaningless and without eternal ramifications. True, the Bible teaches us that time is a resource and a stewardship for which we are all responsible before God. But if we are not careful, we can fall into the trap of the western mindset which sees time strictly from the utilitarian standpoint where performance and accomplishments or doing something productive is the all-important goal. When this happens, we lose the capacity to simply enjoy God, people, and the life God has given us. Again, as is the case in all of life, we need a biblical balance. Without this balance we become feverish, legalistic joy killers, and will destroy our capacity to be the people God has called us to be.

The Problem of the Tyranny of Time

Rather than a friend, we have turned time into a tyrant. And we have allowed this tyrant to invade and dominate our lives. If you look carefully at our society, you can easily see the decline in our social life and in our relationships with people brought on by the tyranny of time and by our failure to grasp the meaning of time from a biblical perspective. Regarding this decline, Robert Banks has this to say:

Seizing on the image of a familiar children’s toy, Don McLean compares the average person to a spinning top:

Round and round this world you go,
Spinning through the lives of the people you know …
How you gonna keep on turning from day to day?
How you gonna keep from turning your life away?

Consequently our encounters with others are becoming more and more limited and instrumental. We associate rather than interrelate, hold ourselves back rather than open ourselves up, pass on or steal by one another rather than pause and linger awhile. The number of our close friends drops and the quality of our married life diminishes.107

Developing vital relationships with people is tremendously time consuming and, because of our utilitarian or production-oriented mindset, our tendency is to economize our commitment to spending the time needed to develop deep relationships with family and friends.

The life of the church is detrimentally impacted by these time pressures. There are too many meetings, programs, organizations, and other constraints calling the body of Christ to go, go, go, and do, do, do. The results are debilitating on our relationship with God, with one another, and with time needed to think, meditate, and grasp God’s truth. In this rat race of always being on the go, we are failing to grasp who we are, why we are here, and where we are really going. We are like the bus driver who told his passengers, “I have some good news and then some bad news. The bad news is we took a wrong turn and are on the wrong road. But don’t worry, the good news is we are making great time.” It’s as though the going itself, the movement at a fast pace, is its own reward regardless of where it takes us. We have become enamored with speed for the sake of speed itself. We want our computers to run with the speed of light. If it takes ten seconds to save a thirty-page file, we become impatient and complain. We want it done in a split second. But doesn’t it seem only logical that the traveler, if he is unsure of the route, should stop and ask where he is and where the present road is taking him rather than continue on in the same direction regardless of his speed?

There is a passage in Mark that speaks powerfully to this very issue of being preoccupied with activity or how much we have and can accomplish. We are told in Mark 6 that the disciples, having returned from a very busy time of ministry, gathered around the Lord Jesus and began to inform Him about all that they had done and taught (vs. 30). In the Greek text it is obvious that the disciples were quite preoccupied with their performance, with what they had done. This is seen in the repetition of the Greek word hosos, “everything.” Literally, the text reads, “Then the apostles gathered around Jesus and told him everything they had done and taught.” But then in verse 31 we read these very interesting and thought provoking words, “He said to them, “Come with me privately to an isolated place and rest a while” (for many were coming and going, and there was no time to eat).” This was not just a problem of time, but of the responsibility to deal with the use of time in a way that would enhance the time they had.

This is dramatically illustrated in the story about the feeding of the five thousand which follows. This event was surely designed to teach them how much more they needed time alone with Him to draw upon the resources of His glorious life to be effective in the use of the time they had. It was not just a matter of “everything” they did, but of who was in charge of their lives. And for this, they (as it is with us) needed to hear the word of God to Elijah, “Leave here and…hide out” (1 Kings 17:3).

The Perspective of Time in the Bible

An Overview

In modern society, we tend to look at time as an abstract quality, but just how is the concept of time used in the Bible?

There is no general word for ‘time’ in the ot, nor are there specific words for the categories of ‘past,’ ‘present,’ or ‘future.’ The Hebrew word most commonly translated as ‘time’ is ayt, which really refers to the instant or duration of time during which something occurs (1 Sam. 9:16; Eccles. 3:1-8; Ezra 10:13; 2 Chron. 24:11). Another word, `olam, refers to immeasurable time, whether past (Eccles. 1:10) or future (Mic. 4:7). While it does not mean ‘eternal’ in the sense of without end, it does point to a length of time beyond human comprehension. Another common word, mo`ed, means ‘fixed time,’ i.e., a time designated for a specific occurrence like a festival (Lev. 23:2, 4). In other words, time in ancient Israel was not conceived as an abstract dimension but primarily as related to specific happenings whether of short or long duration.108

The New Bible Dictionary adds the following with regard to the concept of time in Scripture:

The Hebrews had their ways of measuring the passing of time … but the most frequent contexts for the words translated ‘times’ and ‘seasons’ suggest a concern for appointed times, the right time, the opportunity for some event or action. The commonest word is `e„t ( cf. Ec. 3:1ff. for a characteristic use); zema„n has the same meaning. Mo`ed comes from a root meaning ‘appoint’ and is used of natural periods such as the new moon ( e.g. Ps. 104:19) and of appointed festivals ( e.g. Nu. 9:2). In particular, all these words are used to refer to the times appointed by God, the opportunities given by him ( e.g. Dt. 11:14; Ps. 145:15; Is. 49:8; Je. 18:23). In NT the Gk. kairos often occurs in similar contexts, though it does not in itself mean ‘decisive moment’ ( cf. Lk. 19:44; Acts 17:26; Tit. 1:3; 1 Pet. 1:11).

The Bible thus stresses not the abstract continuity of time but rather the God-given content of certain moments of history. This view of time may be called ‘linear,’ in contrast with the cyclical view of time common in the ancient world; God’s purpose moves to a consummation; things do not just go on or return to the point whence they began. But calling the biblical view of time ‘linear’ must not be allowed to suggest that time and history flow on in an inevitable succession of events; rather the Bible stresses ‘times,’ the points at which God himself advances his purposes in the world (*Day of the Lord).109

C. H. Pinnock, in his article on time in The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia warns us against making sweeping conclusions in the study of the words for time in both the Old and New Testaments. Before discussing the words for time, he has this to say:

Study of the biblical words for “Time” out of their contexts will not yield a scriptural doctrine of time. Biblical teaching on time (or any given subject) is based not on the linguistic method of treating words in isolation, but upon direct biblical statements and word usage …110

This does not mean we ignore the meaning of these words, but that we must consider them within their contexts, and Pinnock then discusses the Hebrew and Greek words used for time and comes to basically the same conclusions as the above articles. Then, concerning the biblical conception of time, he says:

Primarily, the Bible views time as the limited succession of days in which human experience of the world flows. Human beings are allotted their appointed span of time; the Lord gives, and He takes away (Job 1:21). … Ultimately, God controls human destiny (Ps. 31:15; 139:16). Through sin, history has become the record of the activities of fallen human beings.

God displays His redemptive grace toward lost humanity through the medium of history. His sovereignty over history (Eph. 1:11) is seen in the historical acts of redemption (Isa. 46:4-10) …111

Principles on Time Stewardship

I have been a little surprised by the relatively small number of passages that directly address the use of time in comparison, for instance, to the number of passages devoted to the stewardship of money. Dozens of passages are devoted to wealth and money, but very few to time. Perhaps my surprise can be attributed to our modern concern for time management and the way we see time as a resource like money.

The fact that fewer passages are devoted to the time issue doesn’t mean that our use of time is not important because it obviously is. This difference does suggest, however, how much emphasis western society has put on time and how we have become preoccupied with it as a commodity that must be hurriedly spent before we lose it.

This modern-western view of time can be illustrated in the differences that exist in other cultures. For instance, Banks notes that “Whereas the English clock runs, the Spanish clock walks.”112 This has tremendous implications on the way people view life. “If time is moving rapidly, as Anglo-Saxon usage declares, we must hurry and make use of it before it has gone. If time walks, as the Spanish-speaking say, one can take a more leisurely attitude to it.”113

What then are some of the lessons we can learn from God’s Word regarding the stewardship of time?

Old Testament Passages

Psalm 90:12

So teach us to consider our mortality,
so that we might live wisely.

Psalm 90 is a meditation (vss. 1-11) and a prayer (vss. 12-17). The prayer flows out of the Psalmist’s meditation on God’s greatness and eternality which stands in stark contrast to man’s frailty, sinfulness, and temporality. In this Psalm, Moses prayed for the practical outcome of his meditation, mainly, that he would have the ability to make the life God had given him more meaningful and that God might confirm or establish the work of his hands (vs. 17). He wanted his life to count for God and that it might have eternal value, but an essential part of this was an awareness of the value and purpose of his time on earth. Man’s problem is that he tends to live for the moment rather than for eternity. But where does time management begin? By calculating not only the brevity of life, but also the approximate days he might have left according to the average life span. With that life span in view, he prayed that he might devote himself to bringing in a harvest of God’s wisdom so he might live wisely, walking circumspectly in the light of God’s wisdom (cf. Eph. 5:15-18).

Numbering our days would include evaluating the use and management of our time. This means evaluating where and how we spend our days. If we are too busy to spend time in the Word, then we need to ask ourselves why. Let me suggest four reasons why people are too busy, but are going nowhere in terms of eternal investments, or in accomplishing God’s will.

(1) People may stay busy because of their egos. People want to appear important. In our society, the crowded schedule, the incredible number of hours and heavy demands are supposed to show how successful or important a person is. Somehow we have come to gauge people, including ourselves, by activity and performance, so we overload our schedules.

(2) People may stay busy as a cover up for laziness. Running around in a lot of extracurricular activities is sometimes a way to avoid the more important or difficult responsibilities. This is particularly true for pastors. Some would rather be busy with all kinds of things rather than spend many hard hours working and thinking through the Word or a text of Scripture. If a Pastor doesn’t take the time to study and know the Word, how can he lead people to the quiet and still waters of God’s Word? The same principle applies to all of us.

(3) People may stay busy because of greed. People are greedy or materialistic. Matthew 6 is a classic commentary on this problem. People are busy, busy, busy because they have up-side-down priorities and they are never satisfied; enough is never enough. As a result, they pursue the details of life from morning to evening. If they make $70,000 this year, next year they figure with just a little more work, they might make $90,000. Greed for money is only one aspect. This can also involve greed for power, praise, prestige, position, possessions, and security.

(4) People may stay busy because they are more concerned about pleasing men rather than God. They have never learned to say “no” which is important to our ability to keep God’s priorities before us. If we do not plan our schedules and decide what we should and should not do, others will decide for us. Our business will be a form of betrayal rather than commitment. A good illustration of this seen in Acts 6:1-7. When confronted with how to meet the needs of the people, they first approached the problem by establishing priorities according to biblical principles. They said, “It is not right for us to neglect the word of God to wait on tables. 3 But carefully select from among you, brothers, …whom we may put in charge of this necessary task.” Instead of adding this job to their present responsibilities, they delegated the task to others. Biblical priorities and God’s will for us individually must determine our activities rather than the wants or even the needs of people.

Numbering our days also means evaluating the quality of our time spent. The amount of time we spend at something is often not as important as the quality of the time spent. Not only must we consider where our time goes, but how we spend it and why. By how I mean how well. Is it quality time? Do you take time for God’s Word and other projects which require solid thinking and alertness when you are not beat, or when you are at your best? When you spend time with your family, is your mind and heart somewhere else? Are you distracted? When in church, for instance, what exactly are you thinking about?

The why is also very important. We need to consider our motives and goals in the use of time. As believers we need goals and a plan. All we do should be structured around fulfilling biblical goals. We need (a) objectives (immediate, short-range), (b) goals (intermediate), and (c) a mission (long range). Then everything we do in the use of our time should be structured around that. This includes rest, recreation, relaxation, fun, as well as our work, service, and ministry.

Some of the greatest thinkers and inventors have been people who took short naps (catnaps). Why? Because it helped them to think and use their time more effectively. They were goal oriented (1 Cor. 10:31).

Psalm 39:4-5

O Lord, help me understand my mortality
and the brevity of life!
Let me realize how quickly my life will pass!
5 Look, you make my days short-lived,
and my life span is nothing from your perspective.
Surely all people, even those who seem secure, are nothing but vapor.

The setting for this Psalm consists of God’s disciplinary reproofs in David’s life (vss. 8-11). We are not told when this occurred or of that which the discipline consisted. We see only that David felt the heavy hand of God in his life and was in great emotional and spiritual torment. But Scripture teaches us that such reproofs are tools used by God as the master craftsman to purify and mold the life of His people. He uses them to turn us away from sin and from lives of self-centered independence into greater levels of maturity and spiritual dependence on God Himself. As He is the source of life, so He is to be our means and reason for life. But typically, in rebellious independence, man seeks to find from this life what it simply cannot and was never designed to give. Man looks to his comforts, pleasures, pursuits, accomplishments, and wealth to find meaning, significance, satisfaction, and security in and with this life. But one of the great messages of the Bible is such can only be found in God.

Man’s life is fleeting, like a handbreadth, which was the shortest means of measurement in David’s time. Man’s life is like one’s breath seen on cold morning that quickly vanishes. Without God, man’s life is without substance; he is like a phantom or a shadow. Man can amass great wealth, but he can’t take it with him. He must leave it behind and who knows what will become of his fame or fortune.

David knew that without God, man is without hope and meaning in life. As a godly man, though frustrated and in pain, rather than express his frustration before others which might dishonor God, he made a commitment to muzzle his mouth (Ps. 39:1). As he meditated on his life and life in general, his silence was broken, not before men, but as it should be, in prayer to God. He prayed for answers, indeed, for wisdom that he might learn what God wanted him to know and apply in view of the shortness of life. David’s prayer shows us just how hopeless the perplexities of life are unless seen in the light of an eternal and all-wise God and His plan for us as revealed in the Bible.

So what was David asking when he prayed, “Lord, make me to know my end and what is the extent (measure) of my days; Let me know how transient (short lived) I am”? Some would say that he is asking, in view of man’s fleeting life and shadow-like existence, what is the purpose and meaning of my life, of all my days? But perhaps this is not the full substance of David’s request. He was asking, Lord, help me to not put all my eggs in such a fragile basket, one that is so fleeting and passing away. As Israel was to be kind and give aid to the stranger and sojourner (Deut. 10:18-19), so David was asking God to help him live as a stranger or sojourner in total dependence on the Lord (vs. 12) rather than trust in this fleeting world.

Note how he concludes his reflections on the fleeting and frail nature of life in verse seven. “And now, Lord, for what do I wait? My hope is in You.”

“And now” is the Hebrew `atah, an adverb of time meaning simply “now.” But this adverb is often used to introduce what should follow in the light of present conditions, i.e., “as things are now this is where I stand,” or “as things are now, what should be done?” David was saying that with things as they are in this present form of the world, with man’s life on earth as it is, fleeting and insubstantial, “for what do I wait?” The verb “wait” is qawa which means “to wait, look for with eager expectation, hope.” It contains the idea of an enduring expectation in faith trusting that the object of faith will meet the expectations. David put this in a question. Do I look expectantly to this fleeting life with its phantoms to enchant me or give meaning to my life? He then quickly gave his answer in the positive. “My hope is in You.” God alone was his place of confident expectation.

Being good stewards of time does not mean we cannot enjoy the many good things God gives us in this life. Indeed, 1 Timothy 6:17 teaches us God “richly provides us with all things for our enjoyment.” But we must also realize that in our enjoyment, we are not to fix our hope on the fleeting uncertainties of this world whether comforts or pleasure or power or position or wealth, but on God alone (1 Tim. 6:17; Ps. 62:1-12). So David concluded the Psalm with a request for God to remove the discipline that he might enjoy the time he had on earth (vs. 13).

1 Timothy 6:17 Command those who are rich in this world’s goods not to be haughty or to set their hope on riches, which are uncertain, but on God who richly provides us with all things for our enjoyment.

Psalm 62:1-12 For God alone I patiently wait;
he is the one who delivers me.
2 He alone is my protector and deliverer.
He is my refuge; I will not be upended.
3 How long will you threaten a man?
All of you are murderers,
as dangerous as a leaning wall or an unstable fence.
4 They spend all their time planning how to bring him down.
They love to use deceit;
they pronounce blessings with their mouths,
but inwardly they utter curses. (Selah)
5 Patiently wait for God alone, my soul!
For he is the one who gives me confidence.
6 He alone is my protector and deliverer.
He is my refuge; I will not be upended.
7 God delivers me and exalts me;
God is my strong protector and my shelter.
8 Trust in him at all times, you people!
Pour out your hearts before him!
God is our shelter! (Selah)
9 Men are nothing but a mere breath;
human beings are unreliable.
When they are weighed in the scales,
all of them together are lighter than air.
10 Do not trust in what you can gain by oppression!
Do not put false confidence in what you can gain by robbery!
If wealth increases, do not become attached to it!
11 God has declared one principle;
God is strong,
12 and you, O sovereign Master, demonstrate loyal love.
For you repay men for what they do.

Ecclesiastes 3:1-8

For everything there is an appointed time,
and an appropriate time for every activity on earth:
2 A time to be born, and a time to die;
a time to plant, and a time to uproot what was planted;
3 A time to kill, and a time to heal;
a time to break down, and a time to build up;
4 A time to weep, and a time to laugh;
time to mourn, and a time to dance.
5 A time to throw away stones, and a time to gather stones;
a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
6 A time to search, and a time to give something up as lost;
a time to keep, and a time to throw away;
7 A time to rip, and a time to sew;
a time to keep silent, and a time to speak.
8 A time to love, and a time to hate;
a time for war, and a time for peace.

Solomon is teaching that all the events or activities of life as illustrated in verses 2-8 have their proper “time” ( zeman, point in time, appointed time) and season ( eth or etz, duration, opportunity). Some of these events occur only once in life while others occur repeatedly. The important thing is to recognize that God has ordained times for the various events of life (opportunities, responsibilities, trials) and that we are to take the time to do what is needed. As Banks points out, “The character of the event, experience, stage in life or relationship will determine the type and length of time that should be placed at its disposal.”114

Ecclesiastes 3:9-11

What benefit can a worker gain from his toil?
10 I have observed the burden
that God has given to people to keep them occupied.
11 God has made everything fit beautifully in its appropriate time,
but he has also placed ignorance in the human heart
so that people cannot discover what God has ordained,
from the beginning to the end of their lives.

As verses 1-8 indicate, those things which fit into God’s appointed time are filled with polar opposites and these are both destructive and constructive. This might produce the question raised in verse 9, “What benefit can a worker gain from his toil?” But this is answered in verses 10-11. God has made everything appropriate, proper (same word is translated “fitting” {NASB} or “proper” {NIV} in 5:18) in its time … Literally, the Hebrew means beautiful. In the Septuagint (the Greek translation of the Old Testament) it is translated by kalos which means fair, beautiful, fitting, useful. Without maintaining the perspective of eternity, men will fail to see this. For this reason, God has placed the eternal perspective in man’s heart so that he can see beyond this life, the polar opposites, and the often rut-like routine of the daily life God has appointed for each person. Every culture, no matter how primitive, seems to have some concept of eternity. This, of course, is particularly true for those who have the time perspectives of God’s Word. In the New Testament it is described from the perspective of living as ambassador/sojourners.

Unfortunately, it is not always easy to recognize the significance of a particular point in time. Along with Paul we may be ‘perplexed’ on some occasions, but we need not be ‘driven to despair’ (2 Cor. 4:8). We do not always recognize the significance of large blocks of time … yet we can still echo the Psalmist’s affirmation: “But I trust in you, O Lord! I declare, “You are my God!” 15 You determine my destiny!…” (Ps. 31:14-15a).115

Ecclesiastes 9:15

for there is nothing better on earth for man to do except to eat, drink, and enjoy life.
So joy will accompany him in his toil
during the days of his life which God gives him on earth.

Here Solomon gives us the attitude all men need. They are to live life as unto the Lord and make the most of the opportunities God gives, but they must always understand that “the issues and length of life are quite unpredictable. No one can guarantee success or foresee how God will deal with him.”116 Ecclesiastes 11:2 adds, “Divide your merchandise among seven or even eight investments, for you do not know what calamity may happen on earth.

So the lesson is that we can and should enjoy life and the time on earth God gives us, but apart from knowing and loving God, nothing on earth will have any eternal value. Purpose and meaning to life cannot be found in material or temporal things. God alone can give us that. Since that’s the case, He must be our priority in life (Matt. 6:33-34).

New Testament Passages:

Romans 13:11-14

And do this because we know the time, that it is already the hour for us to awake from sleep, for our salvation is now nearer than when we became believers. 12 The night has advanced toward dawn; the day is near. So then we must lay aside the works of darkness, and put on the weapons of light. 13 Let us live decently as in the daytime, not in carousing and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and sensuality, not in discord and jealousy. 14 Instead, put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh to arouse its desires.

And do this because we know the time …” The Apostle teaches us that there is the need for time orientation according to the truth of the Word and what it reveals to us concerning the times. Knowing this becomes a strong motivation to the kind of godly living just described in the preceding verses. “Time” is the Greek kairos. In contrast to chronos which may refer to elapsed time, or to the duration of time, kairos more often looks at fixed or definite time, and especially of the quality or characteristics of a particular time with its accompanied events. So it may refer to a seasonable time, a time of opportunity, a fruitful time, the fullness of time or times, a welcomed time, a time of salvation, or a difficult time (Gal. 6:10; Col. 4:5; Acts 14:17; Gal. 4:4; Eph. 1:10; 2 Cor. 6:2; 2 Tim. 3:1). Kairos is used 85 times in the New Testament and 30 of these by Paul.

The decisively new and constitutive factor for any Christian conception of time is the conviction that, with the coming of Jesus, a unique kairos has dawned, one by which all other time is qualified.117

Mark 1:15, Galatians 4:4, and 2 Corinthians 6:2 make it clear that with the coming of Jesus Christ a new time has dawned which is the acceptable time, a time of salvation, a time of opportunity to find God and experience His salvation through the person and work of the long-awaited Messiah Savior. And this Savior, in the fullness of time, entered into human flesh, ministered among men, died for our sin, was raised from the dead, and now ascended sits at the right hand of God. From this exalted position, through the work of the Holy Spirit and the body of Christ, He seeks to draw all men to Himself.

The suffering, death, resurrection, and ascended session of Jesus is not just a fact of past history. Rather, these momentous events in time have ushered us into a present time of salvation which Paul has defined as a time of proclamation for the body of Christ. By God’s mercy, this is a day when men from every tongue, tribe, and nation can find salvation through Christ if we will but proclaim the message.

But while today is the kairos of salvation, it is also another kind of kairos, a time described as difficult (2 Tim. 3:1), as existing amidst days that are evil (Eph. 5:17), and as a time of night. It is a time, however, when the night is almost gone and the day is near (Rom. 13:11). The day that is near is the day of Christ’s return when He will usher in the fullness of times (pl.) in the millennial kingdom of Christ’s personal reign on earth (Eph. 1:11).

While faith brings salvation and forgiveness of sin, it also brings a special responsibility in relation to time. Faith calls on us to live wisely in view of the nature of this kairos as difficult and filled with evil while also bearing in mind the reality of the coming day when this present time will end. The call for godly living in the preceding verses is based on possessing a proper grasp of God’s sovereign purpose for this age of darkness because it is moving toward the consummation of all things through the final phase of salvation that comes to men in Christ. The issue is a need to grasp the nature of this time as a time of opportunity for salvation, but also as temporal and evil in contrast to the glory of the future which is a time of eternal light and the fullness of times (Eph. 1:11). So living godly is related to one’s grasp of the nature of time in the plan of God.

Ephesians 5:15-17

Therefore be very careful how you live—not as unwise but as wise, 16 taking advantage of every opportunity, because the days are evil. 17 For this reason do not be foolish, but be wise by understanding what the Lord’s will is.

The Apostle calls us to a guarded walk because the days in which we live in the present form of the world are evil. “Evil” is poneros which means, wicked, evil, bad, base, worthless, vicious, degenerate.118

Satan is called “the evil one” ( ho poneros) and certainly, the evil of these days is greatly magnified by Satan’s activity as the ruler of this age (John 12:31; 14:30; Eph. 2:2; 6:12). The days are undoubtedly described as evil because they are full of ideas, values, and uses that are destructive and contrary to the purposes of God, but they are also evil because of the many delusions and temptations designed by the evil one to draw men away from God and His will (2 Thess. 2:10; 2 Tim. 2:26; Rev. 12:9).

“Taking advantage of every opportunity, “redeeming the time.” Time is kairos which was described earlier. The verb is ejxagaravzw, ( exagarazw), “to redeem, ransom, buy, buy up.” This verb is used in the sense of “to buy back” or “take off the market” in Galatians 3:13 and 4:5 in connection with the believers redemption from the Law. In the middle voice as here it may carry the idea, “to buy up for oneself.”119 The use of the middle voice would stress the benefits received by rescuing the time God has given on earth from the many evil uses promoted by the evil one.

The former life of darkness as children of disobedience is now to become a life of light as children of God who seek to prove what is pleasing to the Lord (Eph. 1:1-14). With this comes the responsibility to make wise use of this time. The reason, remember, is that the days are evil. They are filled with deceptions and temptations designed to cause us to miss the will of God. Ephesians 5:15-18 challenges believers to a watchful and careful walk in wisdom and by the Spirit so that they can grasp God’s will and overcome the evil of these days. So, a further result of such a careful walk in wisdom is the capacity to rescue time from the bondage of unprofitable uses and activities while here on earth that displease the Lord and have no eternal value.

Galatians 6:9-10

So we must not grow weary in doing good, for in due time we will reap, if we do not give up. 10 So then, whenever we have an opportunity, let us do good to all people, and especially to those who belong to the family of faith.

Based on the laws of the harvest (vss. 7-8), the Apostle exhorts us to a life of benevolent good to others, to all men, but especially to the household of faith (vss. 9-10). In the process of his exhortation, he uses kairos twice, once in verse 9, “due time,” and in verse 10, “opportunity.” In verse 9, kairos is used with the adjective idios, “one’s own, private, personal,” or of what is “peculiar, distinct, appropriate, proper.”120 Literally, “in its own season or time,” meaning a time appropriate and proper and this would be the time of reaping, the time of harvest. There is a time coming that will be characterized by a harvest, a time of rewards for faithful service. Verse 9 then becomes a motivation for verse 10.

In verse 10, kairos is used with $ws, used here as a temporal conjunction meaning “while, as long as.” While kairos in verse 9 anticipates the future time of rewards, verse 10 looks at the present kairos that God has allotted to each of us as a time of opportunity for doing good or sowing good seed in the form of benevolent acts of love to others. The guiding principles in doing good are two fold: (a) our sowing will not go unrewarded, a time of harvest will follow, and (b) we are to do good while we have opportunity, as long as the Lord leaves us here on earth. This is the season we have for sowing good.

Colossians 4:5-6

Conduct yourselves with wisdom toward outsiders, making the most of the opportunities. 6 Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you should answer everyone.

This verse is similar in wording to Ephesians 5:15, literally, buying up the time. It is also similar in thought to Galatians 6:10 from the standpoint of making the most of opportunities. Whereas in Galatians 6:10 the context dealt with benevolent good of all types, the context here is on having an effective witness to the unbelieving community. Doing good to all men and having an effective witness obviously go together. “Opportunity” is kairos and again, rather than emphasize a point of time, the focus is on a period of time filled with all kinds of opportunities through the privileges and responsibilities given.121

In connection with our witness to the unbelieving world, we are responsible for two things: (a) Our conduct, which includes our behavior, must be opportune in relation to the time in its various possibilities; and (b) Our conduct, as it is occurs in our speech, must be appropriately seasoned to fit the person we are seeking to reach for Christ.

1 Peter 1:17, 2:11

1:17 And if you address as Father the one who impartially judges according to each one’s work, live out the time of your temporary residence here in reverence…2:11 Dear friends, I urge you as foreigners and exiles to keep away from fleshly desires that do battle against the soul,

“Time” in 1:17 is chronos which simply focuses on the duration of one’s life on earth as well as its temporality. On the other hand, the word “live out,” while also pointing to the element of temporality, focuses our attention on the attitude and the manner of life that should characterize how we should conduct ourselves during that time. We are to live as sojourners.

The foundation and motivation for this exhortation is found in the preceding context in a number of things:

(1) We have a living Savior and a living hope through the resurrection of Christ from the dead, and we look forward to an inheritance which is imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away, reserved in heaven for believers who are heavenly citizens (1 Pet. 1:3-4). In other words, our heavenly inheritance is everything our earthly inheritance can never be. The Lord pointedly reminds us of this in Matthew 6:19-21 “Do not accumulate for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal. 20 But accumulate for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

(2) As those whose salvation is also protected by the power of God, we look forward to the future aspect of that salvation which will be revealed at the return and revelation of Christ (1 Pet. 1:5-14).

(3) In the meantime, we must remember that we are children of a holy God. This means we are to be holy and live like exiles, becoming set apart to Him in all our manner of life (1 Pet. 1:15-19). Indeed, though we were once not a people of God, we are now. In fact, we are now a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession, and a people with a special purpose—that we might proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called us out of darkness into His marvelous light (2:9-10).

As believers in Christ, we are now citizens of heaven from whence we are to be looking for the Savior (Phil. 2:20-21). This truth and hope is to dynamically impact the way we live. We must not settle down as “earth dwellers” who live as though this world were our permanent home or all there is to life. You know the attitude I am talking about—“we need to get all the gusto we can because we only go around once.” Instead, believers in Christ should live as temporary residents whose citizenship and real home is in heaven. “Live out” in 1 Peter 1:17 is the Greek paroikia ( paroikiva) and refers to the life of a sojourner who lives in a strange or foreign land. It describes the life of one who lives as a temporary resident in some foreign place in order to work, perhaps as an ambassador. But for this person, their permanent home and longing is elsewhere. Paroikia is used of Israel’s temporary stay as strangers in a foreign land, the land of Egypt (Acts 13:17) because they were to be longing for the land of promise, the land of Israel.

So, in 1 Peter 2:11, as an exhortation against fleshly desires that war against the soul and can spoil our witness in the world, the Apostle Peter combined paroikia with parepidhmos ( parepivdhmo) to more forcefully drive home how we should live and view our time on earth. Parepidhmos is a synonym which means “stranger, exile, sojourner, resident alien” and is used here of Christians who should not feel at home in this world because they are really just foreigners ( xenos, stranger, foreigner) and exiles ( parepidhmos) on the earth (Heb. 11:13).

I have tried to define the key words used here to paint the picture of just how we are to view our time and the use of time on earth, but perhaps nothing says it better than the old hymn which reads:

This world is not my home, I’m just a passin’ through,
My treasures are laid up, somewhere beyond the blue.
The angels beckon me from heaven’s open door,
And I can’t feel at home in this world any more.

While I do not remember the exact wording, I remember reading a comment by Harry Ironside in one of his commentaries several years ago about being ushered into the foyer of the magnificent home of a very wealthy family. When he saw the size of the foyer (which was as large as some people’s entire house) and the lavish furnishings, he thought, “No wonder some folks have a hard time longing for the glories of heaven.” His point was that people with such possessions tend to think they have heaven here on earth and are living as such.

If you lived in the cold Northwest as I do, but knew that in a few months you would be moving to southern Arizona for the rest of your life, would that affect the way you live? If your present overcoat was just about worn out, would you purchase a new one? What about your studded snow tires or your snow blower? Would you sell them or take them with you to Arizona? Knowing that your time in the cold Northwest was temporary and that you would soon be a citizen of sunny Arizona would definitely impact the rest of your time in the Northwest.

Peter is warning us that fleshly desires war against the soul and form the basis of our attachment to this present world. We look to the acquisition of these things to give us security, satisfaction, and a sense of significance, but we are to find this in Christ and in our heavenly home which is truly secure. This forms the foundation needed to win the battle. So there is a sequence in the two parts of verse 11. Though other truth is involved like the control of the Spirit, the ability to defeat fleshly desires is greatly dependent on our attitude toward our time on this earth and what we are seeking to get from this life.

Principles From the Life of Christ

Have you ever looked over your shoulder and found that you were pulling what seemed like a long freight train with boxcar after boxcar loaded with unfinished tasks, things you really wanted to accomplish, but there they are, unfinished and dogging your tracks. Undoubtedly, one or more of those boxcars are full of guilt, frustration, feelings of failure, and a sense that there is always more work than I can do. Have you ever wondered where the time went? We may wish for more hours in the day but that’s just not an option, is it? God has allotted to each of us twenty-four hours in a day and not one minute more. Evidently, twenty-four hours is enough for us to do what He has called us to do. The amount of time in a day is simply not the problem.

Well then, what is the problem? One answer we might come up with is that it must be a matter of organization and proper time allotment. I don’t have any figures on this, but I know that one of the hot items in the office supply stores are calendars and daily planners like “Day Timers” and the “Five Star Diary.” No doubt, these are helpful and needed. I have one myself. But that’s not the problem because many people who are pulling those boxcars of unfinished tasks are the most organized people in the world. The problem is much deeper and more complex.

The fact is there will always be more to do than we can ever accomplish whether we are talking about needs, work, leisure, travel, or you name it. The need, however, does not constitute the call. The Lord Jesus who only had about three years of ministry on earth could have been totally frustrated, but He never appeared to be in a dither over time and tasks. A study of the Savior’s life shows that while He was tremendously busy and often exhausted at the end of the day, His life was never feverish or rushed. He always seemed to have time to love and minister to people, sometimes spending an extended time with just one person like the woman at the well. He would accept interruptions in His schedule as God’s opportunities. A case in point is found in Mark 6 and the feeding of the five thousand. The plan was to get away to a secluded place to rest awhile, but when He saw the people who followed, He was filled with compassion because they were like sheep without a shepherd. He used the situation as an opportunity to both teach them and give an object lesson to His disciples (Mark 6:30-44).

Yet, consider this about the Savior’s ministry. He cared deeply about people and their hurts. He was full of compassion, yet for every hundred he healed, there were thousands He did not heal or minister to. Was it because He did not care? Of course not. It was because He knew the need did not constitute the call. He constantly walked in dependence upon the Father and His time and ministry were regulated by the Father’s direction or will. Perhaps the most obvious illustration of this is found in Mark 1:32-39.

When it was evening, after sunset, they brought to him all who were sick and demon-possessed. 33 The whole town gathered by the door. 34 So he healed many who were sick with various diseases and drove out many demons. But he would not permit the demons to speak, because they knew him. 35 Then Jesus got up early in the morning when it was still very dark, departed, and went out to a deserted place, and there he spent time in prayer. 36 Simon and his companions searched for him. 37 When they found him, they said, “Everyone is looking for you.” 38 He replied, “Let us go elsewhere, into the surrounding villages, so that I can preach there too. For that is what I came out here to do.” 39 So he went into all of Galilee preaching in their synagogues and casting out demons.

That there was tremendous need with the people clamoring for His ministry is obvious in this passage. Peter tells us that everyone was looking for Him, but He was never driven simply by the needs or by His own compassion or abilities or sense of importance, though He was the very Son of God Himself. Instead, He prioritized His life: He put first things first. He took time to get alone with the Father (vs. 35), sought the Father’s will and enablement from the standpoint of His humanity, and did the Father’s will. Simon’s behavior in this passage is so typical of people and gives us a good example of our problem. While Simon would never have thought of the Lord as uncaring, the implication is that Simon saw the Lord’s absence or time alone in prayer as unproductive, perhaps even as a sign of wrong priorities when in reality it was just the opposite. Simon looked only at the needs. Jesus saw the needs, but He saw them through the Father’s will. Simon was impressed by a sense of their importance with so many flocking after the Lord and His disciples. After all, it was at the home of his wife’s mother, but the Lord was not so impressed. Simon was perhaps driven by a desire for obvious results, numbers of people healed, but not the Lord.

Certainly the heart of Jesus was burdened with all the pain He saw at the home of Simon’s mother-in-law. Certainly He took this to the Father. But the result of His time in prayer was to walk away from these needs and continue on to the nearby towns to preach. Why? “For that is what I came for,” He said. He knew God’s will for His life and He refused to be deterred no matter how much He was burdened by the needs He found all around Him. It was a matter of priorities according to God’s will for Him. Though the world was still full of people with needs, at the close of His earthly ministry, just before the cross, He could pray, “I glorified you on earth by completing the work you gave me to do” (John 17:4). God had given Him enough time to do what He had called Him to do and that was what mattered. There were no boxcars laden down with unfinished tasks over the shoulder of Jesus.

It doesn’t matter who we are or how gifted or how able or strong, we will never be able to meet every need around us nor accomplish all that we see needs to be done. However, we can find time and the ability to do what God is calling us to do.

So why are we pulling a train loaded with unfinished tasks, guilt, and frustration? We live in a society that worships work. It is a society that has made work and the accomplishments of work the primary source of fulfillment, security, and satisfaction. Many have cultivated such an unrealistic standard of achievement that they have developed a neurotic compulsion to produce and perform. It has become like an intoxicating drug that they use to get a high. But why such a compulsion? It is undoubtedly prompted by the desire to succeed, to have what others have, or to have more than others have, to feel good about themselves, or to prove something to someone, perhaps a parent, or just to themselves. Remember, the Apostle Peter defines this as “fleshly desires that wage war against the soul.” And what is this success that people are chasing? In terms of the world, it is sought in position, power, prestige, pleasure, and possessions; or in brains, bucks, beauty, and in our world of super athletes, brawn. Regarding this, I just read an intriguing statement about success:

It is a temptation, a trap, an intoxicant, and a sedative. It is seductive, appealing, addicting, and confusing. It is the fuel that drives the engine of the world’s dynamic, open-market economies. It begins as an aspiration and becomes an assumption, a right. It starts as an occupation and eventually becomes a preoccupation. And we want it.122

The irony of all of this is that no matter how much a person does, or accomplishes, or has, it never seems to be enough. Enough is no longer enough. No wonder, with this mentality or intoxicant, people never seem to have enough time. They are pursuing a path that leads to nowhere or climbing a ladder that is leaning against the wrong wall.


Being a good steward of the time God gives is not really a matter guarding the minutes so we can spend our time productively. Certainly we need to wisely use our time, but even more importantly we need to have a grasp of time in the sense of understanding the great events of God in history, past, present, and future as they are set forth in Scripture in the grand scheme of the plan of God. As mentioned at the beginning of this study, the goal concerning the stewardship of time is not to get Christians busier. It is not busier lives that we need. What is needed instead is a better use of the time we have combined with a biblical view of time on earth from three important elements:

(1) As it is made so evident in 1 Peter, we must grasp exactly who we really are as Christians. We are children of God and citizens of heaven who are exiles, sojourners, and aliens. The world, on the other hand, lives as earth dwellers who search for their meaning and purpose in life from this world alone. For the Christian, following Peter’s instruction means adopting and maintaining this new attitude toward our time on earth and what we do with our lives.

(2) As Paul reminds us in Romans and Ephesians, we must comprehend exactly where we are. We live in a time described by Paul as a time of darkness or night and as an evil age, the form of which is passing away. Everything in this world is designed to get us to make life in this world our ultimate aim. Our need then is to walk carefully so we can rescue the time God has given us on earth from the many evil uses and perspectives promoted by the evil one.

(3) We must also ask and respond to the issue of just why we are here. We are here as ambassadors of Christ called to a world-wide mission of making disciples of all nations starting in Jerusalem (home base) and reaching out to the uttermost part of the earth (Matt. 28:19-20; Acts 1:8). We are here to represent the Savior, to glorify God, and enjoy Him forever.

2 Corinthians 5:20 Therefore we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were making His plea through us. We plead with you on Christ’s behalf, “Be reconciled to God!

1 Corinthians 10:31 So whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do everything for the glory of God.

Philippians 4:4 Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I say, rejoice!

104 Robert Banks, The Tyranny of Time: When 24 Hours Is Not Enough, InterVarsity, Downers Grove, IL, 1983, p. 32.

105 R. Alec Mackenzie, The Time Trap, McGraw Hill, McGraw Hill, New York, 1972, p. 2.

106 Charles Swindoll, Leisure, Multnomah Press, Portland, 1981, p. 1.

107 Banks, p. 51.

108 Harper’s Bible Dictionary, Electronic Media.

109 The New Bible Dictionary, Electronic Media.

110 C. H. Pinnock, The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, Vol. 4, Q-Z, Revised, Eerdmans, Grand Rapids, 1988, p. 852.

111 Ibid.

112 Banks, p. 144.


114 Banks, p. 175.

115 Ibid.

116 The Ryrie Study Bible, NASB, Expanded Edition, Moody Press, Chicago, 1995, p. 1028.

117 The New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology, Colin Brown, Gen. Ed., Vol. 3, Zondervan, Grand Rapids, 1975, p. 837.

118 Walter Bauer, F. Wilbur Gingrich and Frederick W. Danker, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature, University of Chicago Press, Chicago, 1979, Logos Library Systems, electronic media.

119 G. Abbott-Smith, A Manual Greek Lexicon of the New Testament, T & T Clark, Edinburgh, 1973, p. 158.

120 Abbott-Smith, p. 212.

121 Fritz Rienecker, A Linguistic Key To The Greek New Testament, edited by Cleon L. Rogers, Jr., Regency, Grand Rapids, 1976, p. 584.

122 Ramesh P. Richard, “Success, The Consuming Addiction,” Dallas Theological Seminary’s Kindred Spirit, Winter 1996, p. 10.

Related Topics: Basics for Christians

Report Inappropriate Ad