capitalism, economics, employer employee relations, labor, office furniture, project management, talent, time, tort law, workmans compensation
I spent the first two decades of my adult life installing office furniture for a living. The trade is project driven, particularly for independent contractors. It proved a tough business model because economies of scale were hard to come by. We made our money on skilled labor, not tangible goods. Widgets are scalable. Williams, Wades, and Wandas can’t be scaled into profits; they have to be sped up.
The labor contracting game rests on the ability to forecast the manpower requirement, sell it at a marketable rate, and then maximize the efficiency of the labor output to come under the original man hour estimate. In short, time is money. Much of the time spent on an office cubicle installation project is used in moving product from the staging sites to its final placement. The more product your people can move in a single journey, the less time spent. The faster they walk, the less you waste. All seasoned installers recognize a skilled tradesman serious about his craft. He doesn’t shuffle. He strides. “Quicker, faster, better,” was my time-saving mantra as I pushed my crews to beat the deadline and make bank.
Some may react to the phrase “time is money” as an expression of crass capitalism that discounts the value of life itself. It isn’t crass capitalism. It is an accurate metaphorical phrase with strong biblical backing. But before we dive into the Bible, consider the common language I used above and note all the terms of exchange used to speak of time: “I spent the first two decades of my adult life”, “for a living” (i.e., to earn a wage to live on), “time spent”, “the less you waste”, and “my time-saving mantra.” Our idioms give ample evidence to our propensity of comparing time and money.
18 “When men quarrel and one strikes the other with a stone or with his fist and the man does not die but takes to his bed,
19 then if the man rises again and walks outdoors with his staff, he who struck him shall be clear; only he shall pay for the loss of his time, and shall have him thoroughly healed. ESV [Emphasis added.]
Personal injury law and workman’s compensation requirements rest on the righteous law of the Lord. Time and money are economically exchangeable. Anyone with a job should recognize this. The fundamental agreement between employer and employee is the employer’s purchase of the employee’s skill and labor output for a defined period of time. Seen from the other side, an employee sells his time and talents to his employer. If a third party injures the employee in a way that prevents him from selling his labor, the third party is liable to pay for the lost time. If the employee is injured in his efforts for the employer and can no longer sell his labor, the employer is bound to compensate him for time lost until he recovers and can sell his labor again. This compensation scheme isn’t socialism or compassionate conservatism. It isn’t left wing or right wing. It is just and right.
Exchanging time for money is not the only connection the two have in Scripture. Each commodity carries great responsibility with it as we will be judged for our use of both.
1 Come now, you rich, weep and howl for the miseries that are coming upon you.
2 Your riches have rotted and your garments are moth-eaten.
3 Your gold and silver have corroded, and their corrosion will be evidence against you and will eat your flesh like fire. You have laid up treasure in the last days.
4 Behold, the wages of the laborers who mowed your fields, which you kept back by fraud, are crying out against you, and the cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord of hosts.
5 You have lived on the earth in luxury and in self-indulgence. You have fattened your hearts in a day of slaughter. ESV
We are responsible for how we steward the money God gives us. Economies work when money moves, not when it is hoarded. Misallocated funds become fuel in the fiery judgment we all will face.
2 Corinthians 5:9-10
9 So whether we are at home or away, we make it our aim to please him.
10 For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil. ESV
Life is what we do in our bodies. We perform all of these activities within time. Our expenditure of time—what we buy and how we spend—will be judged.
In the words of the British economist Lionel Robbins, “Economics is the study of the use of scarce resources which have alternative uses.” If the resource is limitless, no economy is necessary. Money and time are each scarce commodities. We have limited access to both. We can be short of cash and short on time.
1 Corinthians 7:29-31
29 But this I say, brethren, the time is short: it remaineth, that both they that have wives be as though they had none;
30 And they that weep, as though they wept not; and they that rejoice, as though they rejoiced not; and they that buy, as though they possessed not;
31 And they that use this world, as not abusing it: for the fashion of this world passeth away. KJV [Emphasis added.]
Should the Lord tarry, our time on this earth will run out. When it does, we are powerless to prevent it.
Ecclesiastes 8:8 KJV
There is no man that hath power over the spirit to retain the spirit; neither hath he power in the day of death: and there is no discharge in that war; neither shall wickedness deliver those that are given to it.
The Parable of the Talents (Matt. 25:13-30) beautifully combines the understanding of the consequences and rewards attendant to our use of time and money. Let us not be found unprofitable like the wicked and slothful servant who buried his talent (vv. 24-30). Let us instead wisely use our time and invest in the Master’s service to hear the words of our hearts’ longing.
His lord said unto him, Well done, thou good and faithful servant: thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord. KJV
 I will assume the reader is familiar with the concept of hell fire and may (rightly) feel insulated from such through salvation in Jesus Christ. The fire I have in mind here is the one all Christians will face. See 1 Cor. 3:11-15.
 The spirit leaving the body is the definition of death. See James 2:26.
 Thomas Sowell, Basic Economics, 3rd Edition, Basic Books, New York, 2007, p. 2.
 Raising someone from the dead is not a counterfactual to this argument. God allows this grace when He has determined that more time be granted to the one being raised. This means their time hasn’t truly run out.