Pastor Note #23 — Marking Time
Seasons come and go, cycling from one to the next. Our calendars turn from one year to the next. Time passes along, steadily, inescapably, unavoidably, relentlessly.
Recently, I was sitting in the dental chair waiting for my dentist to finish with another patient across the room. The dentist was saying something to that patient about the need to consider putting a crown on one of his teeth which was showing a lot of wear. The patient replied, “Oh, I don’t think I want to bother with that. I’m 88 years old, and I don’t expect I’ll be needing these teeth too many more years at this point in my life.” Now, we could debate the wisdom of this man’s decision about a crown for his tooth. I’m inclined to think that a generally healthy and active 88 year old would do well to have such basic dental procedures as crown work done, even if it does cost a bit.
In any case, the details of dental decisions is not what I want to consider here. Whatever might be the best decision about the crown, this elderly man at the dentist’s office is an example of someone who is distinctly aware of the passage of time in his life and of the diminishing of time left to him in this life and is taking that fact into account when making decisions about his life. Our world tells us that that kind of thinking is morbid. And, I would agree that becoming obsessed with and fretful over the fact that our time in this life is limited is not healthy. But a crisp and clear-eyed recognition that the years of our lives in this world are numbered is described in scripture as being the heart of wisdom (Psalm 90:12). Our lives in this world will not go on forever.
Of course, a person does not need to be 88 years old to recognize that the number of years allotted to him or her for this life is not infinite. Sometimes, like when we turn 54, as I did a few months ago, we can be brought up short by the realization that our time in this life is not unlimited.
It is an aspect of stewardship. God entrusts to our care a finite span of years. Recognizing that fact is crucial to our stewardship. Stewardship is about decisions – making decisions about the things God entrusts us with in light of the values and priorities God has for our lives and our world.
We can easily become quite haphazard about the way we use our time – flitting from this to that then suddenly to the other thing – with no real sense of purposefulness or direction, doing whatever strikes our fancy at any given moment. Such is not good stewardship.
Another easy mistake about this notion of stewardship of time is to think that busyness and uninterrupted labor are the chief goal and that play and an unhurried life are bad. To think that way is just about exactly wrong. Busyness is always an evidence of bad stewardship of time. Intimate fellowship with God requires quietness and an unhurried
pace of life. Busyness is one of humankind’s favorite means of fleeing from intimacy with God.
But what about “play”? Does God want us to play? Isn’t work always more important than play? Well, it really depends on how we define those two concepts – work and play. They are not nearly so easy to define as you might think at first.
Sometimes we might think of work as that which is important and play as that which is not really important. Well, if that’s how we define those two things, then I would say that play should get very little of our time and energy. But I don’t think that’s really how we use the words. For example, I believe that “playing” a game with my kids or with a shut-in neighbor are very important things to do, but there is little doubt they are play.
We might be inclined to think of work as that which produces something worthwhile and that play is an activity that doesn’t really produce anything. But here again, we find our terms rather slippery. Playing a game with my children or elderly neighbor do not produce anything you could hold in your hands, but I would argue that such an activity produces some very important things in the hearts and minds of everyone involved.
Ultimately, the definition of work and play that we really use, though we rarely state it bluntly, is that work is what we get paid to do and play is something we do whether we get paid for it or not. And the truth of the matter is that many of the things we do without getting paid are more important than the things we do for pay.
Good stewardship of the time God gives us means being less busy and more involved in important activities regardless of whether we get paid for them. Good stewardship of the limited time we have in this life means doing what’s important to God and letting the pay and the opinions of other people take care of itself.
Our time in this life is limited and therefore valuable. Don’t waste it merely for money. Use your valuable time doing important things, some of which will be pleasant and fun and some of which will be hard and not very enjoyable in themselves. Keep your eyes fixed on Jesus who values beauty and pleasures, kindness and relationships, quietness and rest. Watch less television. It’s almost never more than second best. Keep your life simple and uncrowded. Use your time to build relationships. Use your time to show kindness. Create beauty. Be a blessing to other people. Increase the amount of healthy and good pleasures in the world. Honor God in everything.
© 2011 Gary A. Chorpenning; all rights reserved.
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