Time is short, time is money, time flies when you’re having fun and it drags when you’re feeling bored. You can waste it, you can bide it, you can lose it, you can find it, you can save it, you can even kill it. But in a crazy busy world, it seems that the one thing you can never do is get your time back. This simple reality calls for great wisdom, which isn’t a ground-breaking statement, but God shows us that there is a particular type of wisdom required if we are really going to make the most of our time.
If you Google ‘Bible verses on time management’ you’re pretty much guaranteed that one verse will show up on every page you link to:
Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil.
The problem with the Google results is that they read as if this is just helpful pop-psychology-productivity fluff. After all, who doesn’t want to make the most of their opportunities? In actual fact these short verses sum up a perspective on life that is radically reoriented by the gospel and has all kinds of practical implications.
For one thing, the exhortation to be careful how you live ‘not as unwise but as wise’ is not just an encouragement to be generically ‘wise’ about life, as if it is just telling us to think carefully about which degree to study or which stocks to invest in. Far more than that, Paul has on view the same kind of wisdom that he’s written of earlier in the letter to the Ephesians. In Ephesians 1:8 it was the wisdom that was the foundation of God’s saving work, making known the previously hidden plans of salvation through Christ. It’s the same kind of wisdom that Paul prayed the Ephesians would have in Ephesians 1:17—wisdom that enables God’s people to know their glorious Father more fully. It’s God’s wisdom that has gathered his people together around his Son and so displayed his incomparable glory, as Paul wrote in Ephesians 3:10. So to live carefully, ‘not as unwise but as wise’, is to live in light of the gospel announcement that Jesus is the Lord of the universe and our only hope for life in the family of God. To live wisely is to run everything that might go into our schedule through the filter of the gospel and the wonderful reality that by God’s grace we are members of his family. That’s not just pop-psychology!
Secondly, making the most of every opportunity, ‘because the days are evil’ sounds like a pretty negative tone to conclude your bumper sticker advice with. But again, Paul’s not just saying ‘careful where you put your superannuation because there are some shonky operators out there.’ Rather, he’s reminding us of the time we live in. This is the time between the single greatest demonstration of God’s justice—the cross of Christ—and the ultimate expression of his justice—the return of Christ. These days are evil in two respects. First, there are evil deeds done in them, which means that we must be wise to choose the path of godliness. And second, these days are evil in that they are the last remaining days before evil is finally dealt with in the glory of the return of Christ, which means that we must be wise to use our time in a manner that reflects that timeline. As time marches forward, it marches toward a very specific end with Christ’s return. So the way we use our time should be informed by that trajectory.
So whatever wisdom the world might offer for time management and making the most of your opportunities, the most important perspective we can have is to keep remembering where we are in history: looking back to see the wisdom of God demonstrated in the cross of Christ, looking forward to his return and seeking to live well in these days for the sake of that final day. This doesn’t do anything to create more time in your diary, but it certainly reminds us that our priorities, agendas and activities need to be constantly brought into the light of the gospel and the wonderful purposes of God.