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Management requires measurement. A person who has no idea how much money he has, earns, and spends can make no claim to managing his finances. Of all those measures of personal finances, expenditure is arguably the most important. If expenditures exceed reserves plus earnings, the ledger is in the red regardless the amount of earnings. Time is much the same. We cannot spend more than we have and we can make no claim to managing it if we don’t keep track of how we spend it. It is different in that we can’t make more of it. Regardless of who you are, your day only holds twenty-four hours.[1]

Grab an accomplice and test your sense of time. Your partner should have a time piece (stopwatch, clock, etc.). When you are ready, close your eyes and let them tell you when to start. Without counting, signal to your partner when you believe a minute has passed. How close did you get?

When a man sits with a pretty girl for an hour, it seems like a minute.  But let him sit on a hot stove for a minute, and it’s longer than any hour.  That’s relativity.

Albert Einstein.[2]

One of the building blocks of a solid budget is a list of regular expenditures. Imagine struggling to pay the rent or mortgage without knowing the cost of either. Knowing how to allocate our resources would be impossible in such a scenario. Most of us are much more aware of our regular monetary expenditures than we are of our time. If the reader has never done a time budget, answering the following questions would be a great place to start.

  • How much sleep do you average a night? A week?
  • How many hours do you work per week?
  • How much time do you spend in devotions (i.e., prayer, reading Scripture, worship, etc.) per day? Per week?
  • How much time do you spend in focused attention on your spouse? (Daily, weekly.)
  • How much time do you spend with your children? (Daily, weekly.)
  • How much time do you spend on entertainment (e.g., TV, movies, social media, pleasure reading)? (Daily, weekly.)

The above represent regular, big-block expenditures of time. A second step would be to understand the other incidentals that require time, such as eating, getting dressed, commuting, or standing in line.

Along with understanding how we spend our time, we need to be aware of how we personally think about time. Scripture admonishes us to redeem the time (Eph. 5:16). Understanding how we think and value time is essential in our efforts to redeem it.

Write down some phrases that reflect how you relate to or deal with time. Some examples would be “I am learning to spend my time wisely,” or “I save time by making to-do lists,” or “I waste a lot of time after dinner.”[3] Now, go back over your list and insert the word “life” where you have written “time.” Read the edited list out loud. Does this change your concept of or relationship to time?

Time management author Marshall Cook’s insights about time provide a good perspective for us.

“We aren’t talking about some tangible commodity when we discuss the time of our lives. We no more ‘have’ time than we ‘have’ inches in height. We’re talking about our very lives … we never seem able to ‘find time’ for those important but not urgent activities … Stop looking. You’ll never find time. It isn’t lost. You’re living it. You have to consciously decide to live it in certain ways and not others. You have to make time by taking it away from one activity and giving it to another.”[4]

Colossians 4:5
Walk in wisdom toward them that are without, redeeming the time. KJV

Walking in wisdom is redeeming the time. I cannot recall meeting anyone who does not struggle with the restrictions of time. We need wisdom beyond ourselves to fruitfully live out our numbered days.

James 1:5; 3:17
5If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him. 17But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, and easy to be intreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and without hypocrisy. KJV

Wisdom is a tree of life and adds length to our days.[5] It is the key to getting more out of the time we have. Without wisdom, we will waste time. Without the fear of God in our lives, we will lack wisdom.

Proverbs 9:10-11
10 The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom: and the knowledge of the holy is understanding.
11 For by me thy days shall be multiplied, and the years of thy life shall be increased. KJV

Walking in the fear of the Lord increases our lifespan. Our days are multiplied. I believe this is both quantitative and qualitative. Not only will we have more days, those days will be more blessed and bountiful. This is a tremendous promise to us from the word of God. His wisdom will keep us from wasting time and equip us to use the time we have more fruitfully. The greatest key to time stewardship is the submission of our lives to God Almighty, the Master of time.

Romans 12:2
And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God. KJV

The world system as manifested in the typical American lifestyle is driving us over the edge. Busyness and speed swallow up our lives as we seek for quality time with our families while eating fast food or microwave meals after making it home through the rush hour. We are not to be pressed into the mold of this world, but we can still learn from it.

Luke 16:8-9[6]
8 “Now here’s a surprise: The master praised the crooked manager! And why? Because he knew how to look after himself. Streetwise people are smarter in this regard than law-abiding citizens. They are on constant alert, looking for angles, surviving by their wits.
9 I want you to be smart in the same way — but for what is right — using every adversity to stimulate you to creative survival, to concentrate your attention on the bare essentials, so you’ll live, really live, and not complacently just get by on good behavior.”

The children of the world are wiser than the children of light in many of the practical techniques of day-to-day living. Time management is one of those areas.[7] For the next several posts, I will be drawing from tried and tested time management tools from the secular realm. So long as they do no violence to Scripture and bring good results, they are useful. As an example, I offer you another quote from Marshall Cook.

“Time management isn’t just or even primarily about doing more things in the same amount of time or doing the same number of things in less time.  Time management also involves choosing to do the right things.”[8]

I pray our heavenly Father grant us wisdom and direction in the leading of the Holy Spirit to better make use of the time—the life—He has graciously given us.

[1] And none of us knows if we will live out the day.
[2] Quoted by Stan Toler in Stewardship of Time, Beacon Hill Press, Kansas City, 1998, p. 90.
[3] Marshall J. Cook, Time Management: Proven Techniques for Making the Most of Your Valuable Time, Adams Media Corporation, Holbrook, 1998, p. 8.
[4] Cook, p. 8, 68. Emphasis in original.
[5] Prov. 3:13-18.
[6] from THE MESSAGE: The Bible in Contemporary Language, © 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson. All rights reserved.
[7] In my Christian life, I’ve been involved with ministries and churches whose programs and leadership expectations wear the saints out with activities that leave little room for true personal discipleship and family building. The very organizations that are supposed to help us understand how to live wisely are often guilty of wasting our time in energy because they have confused activity for productivity.
[8] Cook, p. 36. Emphasis in original.