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Economics is the study of the use of scarce resources which have alternative uses.[1] We have no resource scarcer than time. The time we have can always be put to alternative uses. But scarcity mandates that to spend time on certain things means we will be unable to spend it on other things. Our time expenditures must be prioritized if we are to use time wisely.

Matthew 6:31-33
31 Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed?
32 (For after all these things do the Gentiles seek:) for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things.
33 But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you. KJV

How much of our life is spent making sure we are clothed and fed? The average American spends six years of life eating and six months tying shoes. These functions are necessary, as the common sign of “shirt and shoes required” in retail outlets attests, but they cannot take supremacy over our pursuit of God’s kingdom and His righteousness. God must command first place in our lives.

Matthew 22:37-38
37 Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.
38 This is the first and great commandment. KJV

Our relationship with God must have top priority in our lives. He should have the first conversation of our day, the last meditations of our night, and the ruling Presence for all the time in between. It is in this that time differs from money. We cannot spend the same money on different items. Time has the unique benefit of allowing concurrent expenditure. Our Father realizes we have to work, in deed He is the one that gave man his first job. He made us to need food and thus knows we have to spend time eating. When we do all these functions with an awareness of God’s presence, then all time can be pursuit time invested with seeking the kingdom of God.

Prioritizing our time expenditures means spending it in the most effective way. Imagine it is your retirement party at work. You have devoted thirty plus years of your life to a company and the CEO is there to commemorate your service. “It is with great appreciation that I present to you this commemorative gold pin,” he says, “for your diligent work as our custodian all these years. I can only imagine how much benefit our company would have had if you had actually done the accounting job we hired you for.” Thirty years of faithful service in such a situation may now feel like so much wasted time.

Ephesians 1:11
In whom also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestinated according to the purpose of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will: KJV

Ephesians 2:10
For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them. KJV

God had a purpose in mind for each of us—particular good works suited to us—when He saved us. Faithfully serving as the church greeter for decades is honorable, but misses the mark if God’s intent was for you to be an evangelist. The same holds true for the pastor whose true calling was as a business man. When we seek God first, we become much more aware of where we are supposed to be and what we are supposed to be doing.

Along with priorities and purpose, principles guide us in wise time management. Clearly held values and principles build boundaries on our time expenditures. For instance, if someone has a conviction to hold to the spirit of the law regarding the sabbath—to not work or be involved in the marketplace—then that day becomes a preserve for rest, reflection, communion with God, and family dedication. Should a sudden urge to get lost at a superstore or a desire to work an extra day arise, the principle can guard against a time expenditure that would potentially limit one’s rest, time with God, or time with family.

Jeremiah recounts and interaction he had with the Rechabites in Jeremiah 35. The Lord told him to invite the Rechabites into the temple for some wine tasting. They showed up, but refused to drink because they honored their father’s command not to drink wine. In following the family principle, they avoided a lot of potentially lost time to social drinking or drunkenness.[2]

Like the Rechabites, Jesus was committed to doing his Father’s will. This often meant that he timed his activities outside of cultural conventions. When the feast of tabernacles approached, his brothers taunted him to go to Jerusalem to show off his “supposed” miraculous powers. But the Lord had other plans. “My time hasn’t come yet,” he said, “but yours is always ready.”[3] Instead of heading up to Jerusalem for the first day of the feast, he arrived in the middle of it, the fourth day.

When his friend Lazarus became sick, Jesus didn’t rush to his side. In response to the tyranny of the urgent, Jesus actually waited for two days until Lazarus died. Trials of faith are part and parcel of the Christian life. Imagine the trial of faith Lazarus and his sisters went through as his conditioned worsened and he slipped away. “Lord, if you had been here,” Mary told him when he finally showed up, “my brother wouldn’t have died.” These are the words of a woman sure her prayers hadn’t been answered. Why? Because the outcome wasn’t what she had envisioned and didn’t happen when she thought it should, namely before his death. But God had other plans.[4] Have you ever wondered if the answer to your prayer is delayed for the greater glory of God? This is one of the reasons He tells us to persevere in prayer.

Raising Lazarus from the dead was a greater work than simply healing him. Jesus was able to act at the right time because he was guided by principle and commitment, not culture and his own passions.

[1] Thomas Sowell, Basic Economics: A Common Sense Guide to the Economy,3rd Edition, Basic Books, New York, 2007, p. 2.
[2] Their father’s command and their adherence to it focused them on their occupation, sobriety, and dwellings. See Jer. 35:1-10.
[3] See John 7:1-8, 14. This is a rich bit of tongue-in-cheek. The Jews were looking to kill Jesus. Because it was not the right time for him to die, he had to arrive at the feast at an unexpected time. He was in essence telling his younger brothers, “Look, I have a set appointment with death. You guys, however, could die any day.” Ouch! Jesus showed up on the fourth day of the feast, an arrival with symbolic and prophetic import all its own.
[4] John 11:5-44.