Thursday, 9 September 2010

The sin of time-wasting

There seems to be a class of sins which in some Bible-believing circles have been almost abolished. By this I mean that they are more or less never mentioned.

I might just be listening to an insufficiently broad range of teachers, of course. But still - the absence does seem consistent; many of the silences seem to be in the area of what used to be called worldliness. I say "used to be", because that word itself seems to be falling out of use, as itself perhaps an obsolete category in our thought?

Moving on, one of the practically-abolished sins as I see it is the sin of time-wasting.

The Bible clearly teaches that man was not given a general grant to enjoy his life, using it as pleased him best, but instead given a mandate to subdue and fill the earth and replenish it. He was given what is called the "creation mandate" (Genesis 1:28); to develop and harness the various potentialities in the world and in his own gifting. He was commanded to live for God's glory, being fruitful. God planted man in a garden, to develop and cultivate it; a potent image intended to instruct all of us ever since.

The ten commandments contain a command which tells us not only to rest one day in seven, but to labour the other six. God's word gives place to rest and refreshment, but in a proportion which gives the major place to work.

We are all different, and Christianity is not Islam - there are no rules for all people of all places telling us at exactly what hours of the day or months of the year we must do this or that. Our constitutions are different. We are expected to be mature, using wisdom to judge our capacities and opportunities, and how to respond to the different demands on our time from different areas of life - bread-winning, family, church, good-works, study, leisure, etcetera. God gives us a large amount of freedom.

But "freedom" in the Bible is not the same as "a general grant to do whatever we feel like". Freedom is to be employed in the cause for which we were made - for God's glory. Ephesians 5:16 tells us to "redeem the time, because the days are evil". The word translated "redeem" literally means to "buy up" - to let nothing go to waste. The world is full of darkness; we who love God have the Spirit of God by which we can bring in light, if we use the time well. Even rest time should be planned and profitable rest time, not wasted rest time. Does that idea sound strange or contradictory? How can rest be planned or profitable? That's telling us how far we've fallen.

God says that to him who much has been given, of him much will be expected (Luke 12:48). Everybody who is alive has been given time, and God will at the final judgment require an account of what we did with it. Did we plan and invest it for his glory in fruitful service in the different areas of human life, or did we just drift along doing whatever felt good at the time?

If, after doing all your duties and necessities (sleeping, eating, washing, travelling, bread-winning, maintaining and repairing, etcetera), you have (say) 3 hours a day left to allocate, what will happen if you waste 2 of them? Simply, you'll achieve only one third the amount of a person who invests all three. In 30 years of your life, you'll accomplish what another person does in 10.

For the rest of the time, there are many strategies we can use to "double-use" some of our time. When travelling, you can listen a useful lecture or audio-book via an MP3 player. When walking to the shops with the children, you can talk to them about what they learnt in family worship or Sunday School (Deuteronomy 6:4ff), or meditate on it yourself. Whilst the kettle is boiling, you can tidy away the dishes instead of staring out the window. When you judge your body and mind are tired and you can do little more than sit down and passively consume, then passively consume a film that edifies and expands your mind, not whatever trash the TV networks happen to be serving up to sedate the channel-surfing masses.

I think that in many ears today this will sound like madness. It's the doctrine of a workaholic, who will send himself to the early grave! This again shows how far we've gone. Please, what's the point in remaining this side of the grave if we're just meant to watch Big Brother, talk for hours about nothing profitable, or browse the Internet looking at photos of people at parties or reading that this footballer said that about another footballer's words about the other? Why bother?

According to the Bible, only those who work can truly appreciate rest. Only when we use our six days well, will we truly enjoy God's marvellous gift of the weekly Sabbath. Only when our lives are invested properly, can we look forward with understanding to the heavenly rest which is coming, instead of looking back with regret that we won't have something more to show for it.


Ned Kelly said...

(Tongue-in-cheek), so what about all those hours spent running? Presumably you indulge in intellectual ruminations, as I do when I spend countless hours motorcycling across Australia's broad expanses.

David Anderson said...

Ooh, that's an easy one. When I'm running I need less sleep, sleep more deeply and am more alert the rest of the day. Whether I do any thinking depends on the mood I'm in!