“Redeeming the time, because the days are evil.” Ephesians 5:16
Picture this: a gavel coming down. Not the gavel of a judge, but that of an auctioneer. “Going once! Going twice….” If you are a buyer with the lower bid, you feel an urgency. If you do not name your price now, you will lose your chance!
What is up for sale? What does God urgently call you to purchase? Time. “Redeeming the time, because the days are evil.”
The word “redeem” is easy for us who live in this consumer society to relate to. The businessman buys equipment, real estate, and other products, to make more money. The mother buys groceries, décor, and supplies to care for the family. The young person drives to the department store to buy clothing and other accessories. Or he simply browses his options on the Internet, clicks, buys, and has it shipped to his home. To redeem is to buy.
Notice three different activities involved in buying or redeeming. First, there is an internal skill of shrewdly sensing what is most valuable. A wise buyer does not jump at the first thing that catches his eye. Rather, he discerns what has more worth and what has less. When he is looking for a vehicle to purchase, for example, he thinks carefully about his needs and preferences. He thinks about what is most valuable to him at this time in his life. He thinks about the quality of a car’s make, model, and year. Only after such careful prioritizing of values does he buy.
Second, redeeming involves sacrifice. It involves paying with money that you treasure. If you are buying expensive jewelry, you will need to sacrifice hundreds and sometimes thousands to procure it. Because we cherish the dollar, we often feel the pain of giving it up.
Third, purchasing includes seizing what you have purchased. After you check out at a store, you take the merchandise. Sometimes it is as easy as grabbing a bag from the counter and driving home. But if the product is something like a heavy appliance, there is work to lift, load, transport, assemble, and position it for use. Although this step is often the exciting part of buying, it may take work.
In Ephesians 5:16, God does not call us to buy cars, clothing, jewelry, appliances, or homes, but time. The word for “time” here, however, does not refer primarily to the duration of time—the seconds, minutes, and hours going by on our clocks. Rather, “time” refers to “opportunities” in our life. For example, we speak of harvest time, meaning the opportunity in our life to bring in crops and enjoy them with thanksgiving. Or we speak of Christmastime—the opportunity to celebrate Christ’s birth. God’s Word calls us to buy the good opportunities in our life.
But wait! Stop! Before you go off to buy every opportunity that comes your way, remember what a good buyer does. First, he senses or discerns the more valuable from the less valuable. Just as not every product on the market is of equal worth, so not every opportunity is equally worthwhile. Just as you cannot purchase everything online, so you cannot buy every opportunity that presents itself!
How do you determine which opportunities are most valuable? As a child of God, with the wisdom of His Holy Spirit and His Word, you should know that the most valuable opportunities are measured by spiritual profit! No, we do not discern valuable opportunities by asking, “What is most fun? What is most entertaining? What feels the best? What is good for my reputation, my career, my bank account?” Instead, the golden opportunities are determined by prayerfully asking, “What is best for my soul?”
Prioritize your life. What is more valuable? Devotion time or sleep time? Bible society time or sporting event time? Church fellowship or what I already put on my schedule? Overtime at work or quality time with the family? Homework time or your primetime TV show? Time to pray or time to play? We may be able to see some value in all of these opportunities, but a good buyer of time first senses and chooses what is most valuable.
Second, a wise buyer sacrifices. He pays not with money, but he sacrifices his less worthwhile opportunities. You buy time with time. You give up basketball time to get more Beacon Lights reading time. You give up practice time to gain time for exercise in godliness. You give up “hangout” time for time visiting your grandparents. You give up phone time for actual face-to-face time in conversation. You pay up “me-time” to purchase serving time. Yes, it hurts a little, but that is part of redeeming.
“I’m too busy, I don’t have time for that!” we often say. More often than not, that is simply not true. It is not that we do not have time for the good opportunities. We are simply unwilling to sacrifice anything in our busy, self-absorbed schedules to take advantage of activities we know to be more worthwhile. You cannot buy anything truly valuable without sacrifice. As the saying goes, “You get what you pay for.”
Third, a wise buyer seizes what he pays for. This is the most enjoyable part of buying, but this takes work. Just as seizing a heavy appliance is work, so adequately preparing for catechism or a society meetings takes work. The good opportunities of witnessing, getting involved in mission work, and serving older saints in church are some of the most rewarding opportunities to seize; but they do take work.
Redeeming the time involves sensing the most valuable times, sacrificing the less worthwhile, and joyfully seizing the opportunities of gold. Anyone want to go shopping?
The purpose of redeeming time is emphatically not so that you might redeem yourself! We have a Redeemer who has finished that work and paid that price in full, for our salvation. We do not redeem time to redeem ourselves. We redeem time out of a hearty thanks for Christ’s redemption of us. And we are able to redeem this time because the Redeemer works in us to do so.
Yet, the same Redeemer who works in us calls us with great urgency to redeem the time more effectively than we have before. The urgency comes in the reason He gives: “Redeeming the time, because the days are evil.” That means two things.
First, time is running out! The evil days are the days of the end times. About two thousand years ago, Paul told the church that she was living in the last days. That means the church today lives in the latter part of the last days. The end draws nigh. Jesus comes quickly. And before Jesus arrives, death brings the end for you and me, sooner than we expect.
“Tomorrow,” you say, “Tomorrow I will redeem the time. Later I will take the opportunity to be more serious about my faith, to read my Bible, to pray, to get my priorities right, to give up that addiction, to seize valuable opportunities.” But God’s Word says, “The days are evil!” We live in the last days! Time is running out. Time ends with death or Christ’s return. And there is a lesson the young person learns whether he takes heed to God’s Word or not: time flies. After pursuing the world, many today look back with regret on the missed opportunities they cannot go back to. Procrastinate in the redeeming of opportunities, and it will not seem long before it is too late. “Time like an ever-rolling stream bears all its sons away.”
The second urgent call is this: There are fewer and fewer good opportunities. “The days are evil.” Not only does that indicate that the end is soon to come, but it also means there is an increase of evil, apostasy, and antichristian sentiment. In these last days, evil opportunities increase while good opportunities decrease. There are fewer good opportunities on TV. There are fewer good opportunities to witness. Do you not experience this? With affluence comes more responsibilities, and thus more busyness. We feel as though there are fewer times to sit down, read, pray, and communicate with one another meaningfully. And we know that persecution on the horizon will make good opportunities sparser.
Do you see that auctioneer’s gavel coming down? Priceless opportunities are up for sale, but not for long. Going once! Going twice! Redeem them, before they are sold.