Time, Time, Time…. What are you doing with your time? Have you ever stopped to think about time? We all have 24 hours in a day and 7 days in a week. Yet, we either have too much time on our hands or not enough time. It seems to me that the problem with both extremes is the same and that is that we have not been using our time wisely. Paul instructs us in Ephesians 5:16 to be a people who are, “making the best use of your time, because the days are evil.”
There are two things that we need to understand here in order to understand Paul’s thinking. First, “the evil days” to which he refers are the days which precede the judgment. In I Thessalonians 5 Paul is warning the church that “the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night” (5:2). After stating this, he describes for us that the days approaching this coming are filled with deeds of darkness. In that context, he exhorts believers in Christ by telling us that we are not of the darkness but are children of the light. This is who we are, and for this reason we are not to be engaging in the evil deeds that characterize this age prior to the coming of Christ. These are in Paul’s mind the last days, the days preceding the second coming. And it is incumbent upon all who know Christ to reflect Christ as we see the day of His appearing approaching.
The second thing that we need to see is that Paul exhorts us to be “making the best use of your time” or as some translations say, “redeeming the time.” The phrase is reminiscent of an event which occurs in the life of Daniel. In Daniel 2, King Nebuchadnezzar had a dream and did not know its interpretation. He called in the magicians, sorcerers, and enchanters, charging them with giving him the dream and its interpretation or else he would tear them limb from limb. They had no clue what he had dreamed and, fearful that he would make good on his threat, said to him that if he would tell them the dream, they would be glad to interpret it. He saw right through their plan and said to them in verse 8, “I know with certainty that you are trying to gain time…” They were trying to escape their doom, or to delay it; they were seeking to redeem the time, to buy some time in hope that the judgment would not come. Paul is saying in Ephesians 5 that Christians should be seeking to buy time as we await the judgment, using every minute to the greatest advantage. The only difference is that we are to use the time not to escape judgment for ourselves, but to push it off that we might have more opportunity for Gospel work. Colossians 4:5 is a parallel text which says, “Walk in wisdom toward outsiders, making the best use of time.” We are to be redeeming the time - using it in ways that declare the wonders of God’s grace toward those who do not know Jesus Christ.
Yet, I am not convinced that what Paul is speaking about here is limited to our gospel presentation to those who do not know Him. I think it includes much more. The passage in which Paul instructs us concerning time is a passage in which he is calls us to submit to one another in the body of Christ, and then moves on to discussing the relationship of husband and wife: husbands loving their wives and wives respecting their husbands. Then in chapter 6 he moves on to discuss parents and children and the relationship between masters and servants. There is a reason that he gives these instructions after telling us to make the most of our time. He wants us to reflect Christ to the world by the way that we conduct ourselves in the church, the home, and the work world. It brings the whole instruction to light to recognize that we reflect Christ to a dying world not only by the things we say, but the way in which we live.
It is a good reminder to us in times when it is so easy to fritter away our time doing things that have no great significance, when the world around is looking on. Horatius Bonar said, “ Let us ‘redeem the time.’ Desultory working, fitful planning, irregular reading, ill-assorted hours, perfunctory or unpunctual execution of business, hurry and bustle, loitering and unreadiness, these, and such like, are the things which take out the whole pith and power from life, which hinder holiness, and which eat like a canker into our moral being.” He wisely recognized that the proper use of time in all of life will aid us in our holiness. If you want to be more like Christ, and reflect Christ to a dying world, then “Look carefully how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time because the days are evil.” (Ephesians 5:15-16)