Mrs. Miersma is the wife of Rev. Thomas Miersma, missionary in Spokane, Washington.
“I don’t have time right now.” “I’ll do that when I have more time.” “I finally have some free time.” “I wish I could just have some time for myself!” How frequently such expressions cross our lips or thoughts and those of our children. Stewardship of time is a challenging subject for us to deal with. God’s Word clearly sets forth the principles, but applying these principles is something that we must each do in the place in which God has set us, in the freedom that we have in Christ.
We saw last time that we and our children, as royal stewards of the king, owe all that we have—possessions, time, and talents—to our heavenly Father-King. We saw that all that He gives us, He gives us for the purpose of seeking Him, in the way of advancing His cause and kingdom in the world, of glorifying His great name, and expressing our gratitude to Him as redeemed children. We looked briefly at teaching our children stewardship of possessions. The principles of time stewardship are really the same as the principles of possessions stewardship.
First, we recognize that time is a creature of God, appointed and apportioned by Him. He gives us time to manage and cultivate, just as He gives us material possessions and talents. Thus, approaching our use of time with prayer and thankful gratitude to God, we strive to use time as a means to seek after and serve Him. With this as our chief goal, we will desire to use our time diligently, heeding the warnings of His Word against sloth. Finally, we will look forward to His faithful promise to His children-stewards, “…in due season we shall reap, if we faint not” (Gal. 6:9).
It is, of course, understandable that we say such things as “I don’t have time right now,” because God does give time to us as His stewards. Yet how easily we begin to think of time as something to which we have a right in ourselves or as a mere succession of moments. Time is, in a sense, something more powerful than we. We stand amazed, especially in our later years, at how quickly time bears us away. It so often seems to be a source of frustration to us as demands on our time multiply, especially in the busy years when our families are growing up. It is easy to feel at times that it is something completely beyond our control. Yet God tells us in His Word to redeem the time and He gives us instruction concerning what we are to do with our time—speak to ourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, bring up our children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord, labor as servants of Christ, being obedient to our masters. How is this possible?
Although it is nearly impossible for us to think of existence apart from time as a succession of moments, we recognize that in the beginning the eternal God made time, giving the sun and moon to mark the days and years and seasons. He put Adam in perfection in a time-bound creation, and Adam, standing at the head of the creation, was able to offer up time to God, just as all the other creatures, as praise to Him. He did this by walking and talking with God in the garden, by dressing and keeping the garden of Eden, by living in a bond of perfect love with his neighbor, Eve. When man fell, making common cause with the devil, he became a usurper in the creation, also in his use of time. Under judgment, man’s use of and relationship to time falls under the curse of vanity. God condemns man now to eat of the fruit of the ground in sorrow, “all the days of thy life” (Gen. 3:17). Under the sun, what we can see in this fallen world, “all is vanity and vexation of spirit” (Eccl. 2:17b). We eat our bread in the sweat of our face, only to do it over and over again.
Only in Christ do we escape the cycle of vanity. Coming as Lord of time, the One who says, “I am,” yet subjecting Himself to the vanity of this earthly creation, He said every moment, “I come to do thy will, O God” (Heb. 10:7). Finally offering Himself as the perfect sacrifice to atone for our sin, He bore away the curse of vanity. Although for this present time we await the perfection of that deliverance, in principle there is no more curse for us. Time is not a trap that holds us captive, but a creature over which Christ now rules at God’s right hand. Hence, the time is redeemed, and we may walk in the privilege of our salvation as those who now “…redeem the time.”
Just as with our stewardship of material things, we strive to avoid error in both directions. God calls us to diligence in our work, not to making work an end itself. He calls us to stewardship of our time, not to squeeze every last ounce of our time as an end in itself.
Unlike the world, we need not fear the ravages of time and his cohorts, disease and death. Those who live only for this earthly life must have everything right now, for they never know when time and death will overtake them. They race along, often living for the pleasure or activity that is just out of reach instead of enjoying the gift of the moment. Fussing and fuming when they must wait in traffic or stand in line for something, they fret about lost time, wasted time, too little time. The dispensations of God’s providence that place barriers in their way frustrate and anger them. How readily we fall into these sins ourselves. We can learn from the books on and methods of time management and efficiency that abound in our day, but always our goal is redeeming the time in the service of the King: finding more time to meditate upon God’s Word, more time to be with and care for God’s people, more time to instruct our children as we go in and out.
Just as He gives material possessions, God gives time, not equally, but as He sees fit, in His wisdom, for our welfare. He sets one as mother of a busy household, or as father struggling to provide for the needs of his family. For these, time is an exceedingly precious commodity. To another, a young child, or perhaps a single person or an elderly person, God gives much time, often what seems like an over-abundance. Yet, for each the provision is exactly what is needed, and the calling is to redeem that time given, just as the servant was called to use the one pound in the service of his master. Knowing this, we can rest content in the time God gives us, not fussing and fuming with the children of this world, but trusting that with nothing outside the will of our Father, we may use the portion of time He gives, whether it be great or small, as those who will render account.
Just as we set aside a portion of the material gifts God has given us to the service of His cause and kingdom, so we set aside time. God gives us the gift of the sabbath, whereby we enter His rest as the root principle of our lives. What a blessed privilege we have to lay aside our earthly labors to engage in a whole blessed day of spiritual activity, hearing and studying God’s Word, enjoying fellowship with His people, performing works of mercy and kindness. The more readily we live that sabbath life on the Lord’s Day, the more readily will our time in the remainder of the week be engaged in God’s service. While we must often teach our children in a somewhat negative form concerning this privilege, let us, from their earliest years, hold before them the delight we have in the Lord’s rest. Let the words of the psalm govern our approach to the Lord’s Day: “My heart was glad to hear the welcome sound.”
Then each day we redeem the time by calling upon our Father-King in prayer and reading His Word, for how else will we be able to serve as His faithful stewards? We will also give precedence in ordering our days to gathering with fellow-believers to study the Word, preparing for that study, and instructing our children for catechism class.
Service to God by serving His people in need will be a priority for us. Our children may learn this as we and they help the elderly or infirm with lawn work or shoveling snow, by helping to prepare a meal, or caring for children of families in need. This is particularly the calling of the older women in the church (Tit. 2:4, 5). They do this by example, by word, but also by working with and helping the younger women.
We do not always see this as much as we should. In describing the qualifications for those widows who would be “taken into the number,” the Holy Spirit by the apostle Paul says, “Well reported of for good works; if she have brought up children, if she have lodged strangers, if she have washed the saints’ feet, if she have relieved the afflicted, if she have diligently followed every good work” (I Tim. 5:10). Some older women have physical infirmities that hinder them when they desire to do this, but work outside the home sometimes prevents them, or with the children grown and husband retired, large amounts of time devoted to travel or recreation prevents them. Perhaps as older women, we may even think our help is not needed or wanted. But God’s Word says it is. Our children and grandchildren will see, more readily than hear, what our priorities are.
Service to others means caring for the needs of our own families, but as the Word of God inHebrews 13:1, 2 admonishes us, brotherly love comprehends more than our earthly families: “Let brotherly love continue. Be not forgetful to entertain strangers: for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.” This may be as simple as inviting our fellow-believers for a simple meal or a cup of coffee, recognizing one another as brothers and sisters in the Lord, getting outside our small circle of family and friends to show the love of Christ to those who must live without the blessings of family life (including extended family life), to those who come as visitors to our church, to those who are new to our church or fellowship. This is redeeming the time in service to our King.
While workaholism is certainly a danger against which we must guard, laziness and time-wasting is probably the sin more present with us and our children. There are not many warnings in the Proverbs against working too hard, but warnings against sloth appear again and again. Sloth is also the spirit of the world. Even when they work hard, it is with “eye service, as men-pleasers” (Col. 3:22), doing their work with an eye to promotion, financial prosperity, or perhaps self-congratulation. With this motivation, the children of this world will work only as far as necessary to achieve these ends. As children and stewards of the King, we labor “…in singleness of heart, fearing God.” We strive “…to do it heartily, as to the Lord” (Col. 3:22-23).
If we labor as to our beloved King, whether in the workplace, in the home, or in the school, we will strive to do the best work we can, as rendered to Him. How readily we say, “That’s good enough,” when we know it isn’t. How soon our children learn the attitude, “What’s the least I can do to fulfill the assignment, to pass, or to get a certain grade?” As stewards of the King, we will hold the motivation to diligence in our daily labors, whether in the workplace, the home, or the school, continually before ourselves and our children. We do this not only in direct instruction, but especially in how we speak of and perform our own daily tasks.
We see our sinful tendency toward laziness in how we and our children often abuse our God-given time. Although life seems to get busier year by year, many of our activities are not, in fact, very active. Entertainment and recreation occupy us far more than we realize. By entertainment, I would understand a virtual non-activity, something in which someone or something else simply diverts or amuses me. By recreation, I mean an activity in which I am actively engaged, which serves to restore or refresh me. We cannot, physically or mentally, work continuously. We need sleep; God “giveth his beloved sleep” (Ps. 127:2). Yet we are warned in Proverbs 20:13, “Love not sleep, lest thou come to poverty….” So also we view recreation. We need, in these days of mechanization and automation, physical restoration by means of exercise and sports. But, “love not sports.”
We need mental restoration, by means of activities that give us a change from our regular labor. There are many profitable recreational activities through which we may learn new skills, exercise our minds, enjoy and learn more about the wonders of God’s creation, have fellowship with our families and friends. But, “love not nature, hobbies, reading, games, and music, as ends in themselves.”
Admittedly, there is often a rather fine line between entertainment and recreation, but as the King’s stewards redeeming the time, we should examine whether we really need much entertainment, in the sense mentioned above, at all.
It takes effort on the part of parents to teach their children these principles and how to apply them. Ironically, good Christian recreation takes work for us as parents. It’s often easier (and less messy) to allow our children to watch a video or play a computer game than to sit down and teach them to build with blocks, to help them with practicing a musical instrument, to study the creation with them, or to take the time to help them develop a sports or exercise skill. Certainly there are valuable resources in the area of videotapes and DVDs that we may use, but let us remember that nothing in our Christian life is an area of indifference. It’s tempting to take the attitude that as long as our children get their work done, it doesn’t matter what they do with their free time, as long as it’s not something overtly wrong. We desire to teach our children to redeem the time also in their rest and recreation.
In all that we do and teach as stewards of God’s time, we need, both as admonition and as promise and incentive, the words of the apostle in Galatians 6:7-9, “Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap. For he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting. And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not.”