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Insight #279 – Time Budget

Jack is awake before dawn. Shaves, bathes, gets dressed, grabs a thermos and lunch bag and out the door. A hard day at work, boring meetings, looming deadlines. Five o’clock cannot come soon enough. The hour commute home, a quick supper with quick kisses and hugs all around, and it’s off to night class. Home by ten, trying to stay awake studying. Off to bed and sound asleep.

Sound familiar? Or, maybe you are the opposite, with too much time on your hands. “Now all the Athenians and the strangers living there spent their time in nothing else, but either to tell or to hear some new thing” (Acts 17:21). “What’s new?” friends ask. We all listen to and talk about “the news.” But “nothing else”?

Spending Time

Let’s be clear; we don’t want more or less hours in our day. If you have experienced jet lag, you know what I mean. Anyway, as long as we stay put, we all are allotted 24 hours per day. Some of us have a lot of discretionary time, some very little. But it’s important for all of us to consider what we do with our 24 hours.

In Eph. 5:16 and Col. 4:5, some versions read: “redeeming the time.” But does that grab us where it needs to? Other versions read “use your time well,” “making the most of your time,” and “make every minute count.” Plenty to reflect upon.

If someone asks you if you work on a budget, you probably automatically think of money. But what about time? In English we not only speak of “spending money,” but also of “spending time.” Time is a precious commodity that we all “spend” even when we are doing nothing. How do we spend it?

Time with God

What do we “have to do”? Most people would reply in terms of physical necessity. But many long years ago, someone said, “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God.” If all we “have to do” is limited to the physical, we are living on the level of animals. Our entire life needs to be centered on God, doing His will to His glory, doing all as His servants. But that’s not all. There also must be time spent exclusively with God – in the assembly, as well as alone.

We are commanded to work – so we can get the “stuff” our bodies need. But Prov. 4:7 speaks well to our consumer society: “with all your getting get understanding.” That takes time: “if you call out for discernment, and lift up your voice for understanding; if you seek her as silver” (Prov. 2:3-4). We have to spend time to seek silver (dollars). We have to spend time to get wisdom. Heb. 5:12 says, “Although by this time you should be teachers, you again need to have someone teach you the rudiments of the first principles of the oracles of God.” “By this time.” They weren’t spending their time wisely like the Bereans, who were, “examining the Scriptures daily” (Acts 17:11). Probably not praying, either.

Is time exclusively with God a major priority in your time budget?

Time with Family

The NT contains no command to keep the Sabbath, yet the OT command gives us an idea of God’s perspective on the relationship between work and rest. God was telling the Jews that He did not want them to be workaholics. Six days of work, one of rest. Lev. 23:3 speaks of “a holy convocation” on the Sabbath, but in most OT verses about the Sabbath, the emphasis is on rest, time out from the physical. Do we budget one-seventh of our time for rest and worship? Not a NT law, but surely something to think about. Jesus put it more bluntly: “Don’t work for the food which perishes, but for the food which remains to eternal life” (John 6:27).

It seems to me that “rest” for a working family involves loving time with spouse and children. I know I struggled with this when I was much younger. Play with my little kids? Hey, I’ve got “important work” to do. I’m reminded of the busy man who said he lost an entire day when he spent it fishing with his son. Years later his son’s diary was found in which the son said it was the most glorious day of his life. The 40 years recorded in his diary refer to that day often. And your wives, men? Do you budget time to spend with your wife – aside from the bedroom?

Time budgeting is not about being workaholics. We all need time off for godly rest, relaxation and recreation. Even preachers can get caught up in caring for everybody’s problems while neglecting their own families. Many a divorce is caused because one spouse squandered all their time on their career. A money budget needs proper balance. A time budget also needs proper balance.

Is time with your family a priority in your time budget?

Time with Others

The Second Commandment is to love our neighbor as we love ourselves. So, surely, any good time budget will include time for others, not just me-God-family. For example, the godly woman in Proverbs 31, who took excellent care of her family, also “opens her arms to the poor; yes, she extends her hands to the needy” (31:20). Why does a person earn a wage? Just for one’s self, God, and family? No! “Let him who stole steal no more; but rather let him labor, working with his hands the thing that is good, that he may have something to give to him who has need” (Eph. 4:28). Giving to the needy is an important part of both money and time budgets.

A major text, of course, is Matt. 25:31-46, which says in part: “I was hungry, and you gave me food to eat. I was thirsty, and you gave me drink. I was a stranger, and you took me in. I was naked, and you clothed me. I was sick, and you visited me. I was in prison, and you came to me.” That all takes time. Time we need to “make” when we think we don’t have any.

How much time and money and energy we have to help others will vary throughout our lifetime. As we get older, we are physically capable of less. Nevertheless, a special word to those of us who are “retired.” Is retirement just to have fun, do what I always wanted to do, enjoy life selfishly, become a couch potato? Thank God for those who no longer are earning a salary but who dedicate time to others in whatever way. It may be physical or spiritual help. It may be formal volunteering or just stepping in as we see needs. Spend time with/for others, as long as we are able.

Is time with others a priority in your time budget?

How are you spending your time? Whether you have little or much discretionary time, “make time” for God, family, and others.

What does your time budget look like?
A related Insight is found here: 248