The Stewardship of Time
Text: Ephesians 5:15-21
Rev. Garry E. McCaffery
Over the next few weeks we are going to be taking a look at stewardship. Quite often when we hear the word “stewardship”, the first thing we think about is money. “Oh, great! We’re going to hear about money for the next several weeks. Hold on to your wallets.” However, stewardship is much broader than the topic of money. Yes, money and how we relate to it is important, but stewardship is connected to more than that. Stewardship touches every area of our life. Let me repeat that, stewardship touches every area of our life.
When we talk about stewardship in its broader context we are talking about our relationship with all of creation. When we connect our stewardship with all of creation it gives us some clarity and perspective in terms of our relationship to God. First and foremost it brings to our attention a fact we often ignore. That fact is the answer to this question: Who owns all of creation? Who is in charge of all of creation? The answer, of course, is God. God owns it. God is in charge of it. The universe, our world, our lives, everything we possess, ultimately belongs to God. This can be difficult for us to wrap our heads around because the world teaches us that everything is ours for the taking. Whatever you want, you go out and take. Work hard, earn the money, buy it and possess it and do whatever you want to with it. Period. It’s yours.
The Bible, God’s Word, Jesus’ teaching, is in direct contrast to the world view. The Bible tells us in Psalm 24:1-2, “The earth is the Lord’s, and all it’s fullness, the world and those who dwell therein. For He has founded it upon the seas, and established it upon the waters.” Creation, every part of it, including you and me, belongs to God. This being the case, where do we fit in? What is our purpose? We find part of the answer to that in Genesis chapter 2. God had created the heavens and the earth. He created a garden, the garden of Eden, and the garden required care. God created human beings and placed them in the midst of the garden to take care of it. God made human beings stewards of creation. A steward is a person who takes care of the property of another. We have been made to serve God by tending to and taking care of this wonderful creation he has placed us in.
Hopefully this information helps us to reframe our understanding of our relationship to God and the world in which we live. Hopefully it also helps reframe the understanding of our responsibility as it relates to how we care for every aspect of our lives.
The type of stewardship I want to address this morning is the stewardship of time. That’s right, all things, including time, belongs to God. As stewards, we are responsible for how we spend our time. We are accountable to God for the use of this gift just as we are for all the other gifts He gives us.
When it comes to time, God has given to everybody equally. Though others may have more talents and abilities, we all have the same amount of time. No matter how wealthy we may be, we can never buy more of it. No matter how poor, we cannot receive less. The president of the United States or the CEO of the largest corporation has no more time than you or I. Every person has sixty minutes to the hour, twenty-four hours to the day, and 168 hours to a week.
The use we make of time is our stewardship of it. We may be faithful or unfaithful. We may use time in the wrong way, or we may use it in the right way. On the one hand, we may misuse our time. This is why Paul encourages us here in Ephesians to “Be…wise, making the most of every opportunity.” But sometimes we fail to do this. What are some of the ways we may misuse our time?
We may misuse our time by merely wishing it away. Think back to when we were children. How often it could feel like life was just dragging by. We couldn’t wait for Christmas to come. “Oh, my goodness, is it ever going to get here? “ We’d count the days…as we may be preparing to do now. The same was true for our birthday at one time. We couldn’t wait. We were so excited about the thought of getting older. Or, “I can’t wait to graduate high school so I can be grown up and do whatever I want.” How did that work out for any of us? Regardless, so much time wishing the time away, wishing for the next “big” thing to come.
Even now we can find ourselves wishing the time away. I’d say I’m “guilty” as charged for wishing all the Covid restrictions to be over and for the life we once had to be restored. Yet, there are things we can enjoy right now, in this moment, if we choose too.
Another way we misuse time is simply by being careless with it. We just fritter it away. We don’t even have to go back to our childhood to be aware of how we can be careless with time. I cannot tell you how many hours I’ve carelessly wasted watching youtube videos or trying to keep up with the political ramblings and talk show snippets available on Facebook. I’m sure some of you can relate to that as well.
A third way we may misuse our time is by allowing it to terrorize us. Consider, Americans have more time-saving devices and less time than any other people in the world. We seem to have an addiction to hectic activity. We admire the person who is always running off to keep an appointment. We look at them and think how important and successful they must be to have so many places to go. We are a very time-conscious people. Time-conscious to the point of obsession, wherein we overload ourselves and miss the joy that could be in our lives.
When we use time in the wrong way, time passes and with it our expectations and hopes, unfulfilled, just as buds fall from the trees without having become fruit.
On the other hand, we may use time in the right way. The NIV translates Ephesians 5:15-16 this way, “Be very careful, then, how you live – not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil.” How can we make the most of our time and opportunities? We can do four things.
One, we must determine our priorities. Cheryl touched on this a couple weeks ago by asking us to think about our priorities. We must decide, not only to make our relationship with God our first priority, but also what we will do first with our time. We cannot do everything. Oh, I know, the world likes to tease us with the idea that you can have it all and you can do it all. All you need is this energy drink or energy pill and you’ll be able to outdo and out-perform your competition. But, if we take a step back from the hype, we realize how unrealistic that is. We can’t really “do it all.” We have to decide what we will give time to, and then do it.
An old proverb says, “One has to spend money to make money.” Likewise, one must spend time to save time. The efficient person who gets the most done in a twenty-four hour period is the person who has learned to make time work for him or her through careful scheduling, budgeting, and planning. Placing God first and placing other things in their appropriate spot. We don’t have time to do what we consider most important, we make it, we schedule it, so it doesn’t fall by the wayside.
Secondly, to make good use of our time, we must change pace in our activities. This is necessary if we are going to avoid high blood pressure, heart disease, and a host of other diseases. At least once under great pressure Jesus told his disciples, “Come aside by yourselves to a deserted place and rest a while”(Mark 6:31).
Have you ever wondered how some people manage to get so much more done in the average day? They pause. They take time to think, to meditate, to pray. From these periods of apparent inactivity, they draw rich resources of mind and spirt that give them purpose and direction.
If you’re feeling stressed and uncertain which direction to go, pause. Go out for a brisk walk, do some stretching, set your alarm for 20 minutes and take a power nap, drink some water. These are just some small ways to help us better utilize time in order to be more effective.
Thirdly, to make good use of our time, we must concentrate on primary things. Life is always shouting at us about “emergency” and “urgent” situations and, yes, there are times we have to respond to those urgencies and crises. Yet we must call to mind how Jesus urges us to concentrate on the primary things: “Seek ye first his kingdom, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you” (Matthew 6:33, ASV) This is both a command and a promise. This also connects us, as I stated earlier, to our priority.
Paul said, in Philippians 3:13-14, ASV, “One thing I do, forgetting the things which are behind, and stretching forward to the things which are before, I press on toward the goal unto the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.” In this Paul is saying he was not going to waste time worrying about the foolish mistakes and sins of the past but, concerned with the main thing, he was going to press on toward the goal ahead. How often we’ve wasted time worrying about things we can’t change. Rather, we can use our time well and to the glory of God by letting go the things we cannot change and focus on what we can do right now that will make a positive outcome in the future.
Fourth, to make the best use of our time, we must dedicate it all to God. As Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 10:31 “Therefore, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” We need to offer God everything. Not only our abilities, our money, our energies, but also our time.
The good stewardship of our time will bring about many great benefits. First, it will multiply ourselves to God’s service. We will multiply our usefulness both to God and to others. The person who is organized, motivated, and dedicated in the use of time can accomplish more than three people who have no plan for how they want to proceed in any given endeavor. Good stewardship of time yields great rewards for the glory of God!
Secondly, good stewardship of time will advance the work of the kingdom. There is a story of a Christian businessman who was a tither. He had learned about tithing from his father. But the conviction grew within him to do more than just tithe his money, so he made a decision to tithe his time as well. He decided to give each Tuesday afternoon of his busy week to sharing his faith with other businessmen he had contact with during the week. The first week he visited three men. Through sharing his faith one of these men decided to give his life to Christ. The next Sunday this businessman brought his friend to church and that man made a public profession of faith in Christ. Even more than that, this new convert took on the conviction of his friend to, not only tithe his income, but to tithe his time to work at bringing others to Christ. This is discipleship training as well. Making a disciple and teaching them how to make disciples.
Thirdly, good stewardship of time will bring glory to God. The faithful stewardship of time is fruitful, and a fruitful Christian life brings glory to God. Jesus said to his disciples the night before he died, “By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit, so you will be my disciples” (John 15:8).
How we spend our time is truly important to our relationship with Christ. We don’t know the number of our days, but we do know it is possible to number our days in such a way as to demonstrate good stewardship of this gift of time. There are poor ways to use time and wise ways to use time. As good stewards of time let us take every opportunity to make our moments Christ filled here in worship, at home, at school, at work, in the field, at rest, at dinner, at play. At all times and in all places honoring God by using His gift to the best of our abilities. This is the stewardship of time: remembering it all belongs to God and we are responsible to use it wisely. Amen.