Imagine sailing the seven seas in a large, three masted sailing vessel. What if that vessel was shot by an enemy cannon ball. It would be dramatic and difficult to patch the hole while continuing the fight. Now imagine a smaller, but perhaps more insidious problem: a series of slow leaks in the hull. Having to patch the hull while bailing the boat for days could easily exhaust the crew and cause just as much harm as a cannon ball.
This is all an elaborate analogy for the various threats that we as Christians face. It is not the big, headline grabbing, threats that are likely to hurt us, because it is easy to spot the threat and relatively easy to implement the solution. Rather, it is the subtle attitudes of culture which have leaked their way into the church whose presence can wear us out with constant need of bailing and repairs.
It is with [this] spirit of patching leaks, that I propose to defend the wasting of time.
It is with the latter spirit, the spirit of patching leaks, that I propose to defend the wasting of time. It is not that one ought to orient one’s life towards wasting time, but rather that seeking to avoid wasting time distracts us from our true, Biblical purpose. “Wasting” time with friends or enjoying God’s creation is what time is for.
Let us begin by examining the common idea that time is money. This analogy is a bad one. We use all kinds of figurative monetary language to describe time, for example, words like “saving” time or “spending” time. In fact, you cannot save or spend time like you can money. For example, let’s say that I save three minutes on my drive to work. I cannot put those three minutes into the bank; I cannot save them. I must still live out those three minutes, and choose to do something with them. The value of those “saved” minutes is wrapped up in what I actually do during those minutes. It is not worth worrying about saving or wasting time. Instead, it is better to focus on doing good things with the time that you have.
Let me offer a better analogy for time. Time is like air. Imagine that you were going scuba diving near the Great Barrier Reef. You train intensely, arrive at the spot, and dive under water. Then you have a choice. You can spend all of your time focusing on the amount of air remaining in your tank, making sure you have enough, or you can look at the coral! The correct choice is obvious. The reason why you have air in your tank is so that you can see the amazing fish, bright sea anemone and colorful coral. The air is a means to an end. Certainly you need to make sure that you do not run out of air, but that isn’t the point. The point is the coral.
The Sin of Urgency
Check out Sarah Collins’s article, exploring the “roots of urgency” and a biblical response to these driving motives.
The same is true of time. Time is never meant to be our focus. If we focus on time, wasting or saving it, we will miss out on the beautiful things our Father has for us. He has graciously given us time to do good things, to be in relationship with those around us, to enjoy his creation, and even to watch movies and play video games. He has surrounded us with beautiful coral!
Another erroneous attitude that has crept into our culture is the idea that we control time. This is the root of much of the anxiety about wasting and spending time. We make ourselves the master of time. This false attitude is exacerbated by all of the technologies we have that allow us to manipulate time to our own ends. Imagine life before clocks and electric lights. When it got dark outside, there were very few tasks that you could do by candle light. Likewise, you had to be patient waiting for meetings to start because there were not clocks that would allow everyone to arrive at the same time. Certainly some in those times attempted to micromanage their time, however, now everyone feels obligated to do so.
The Biblical truth, however, is that we are not the masters of time. We are commanded to “make the best use of the time,” which means that we are stewards over the time which has been given to us, not the masters over it. You do not need to micromanage your time or plan every second of the day. There is no exhortation in Scripture that says every moment must be filled with productive tasks. In fact, Scripture repeatedly emphasizes the importance of relationships, rest, and contemplation. Look at Jesus’s life. He certainly did many things, but he always made time for those around him – the woman cured of bleeding, the woman at the well, and explaining his parables to his disciples.
Do not hold on too tightly to your seconds, because they are not yours anyway.
In the end, feel free to waste time. Waste time with your friends, waste time doing all the good things that you can imagine. Write poems! Examine coral reefs! Do not hold on too tightly to your seconds, because they are not yours anyway. God has graciously given you a little time on this earth; worrying whether or not you are wasting time is not what he has in mind for it. Instead, write an essay! Talk with a friend! Take out the trash! Enjoy the good things that God has given you.