What is the world’s most precious commodity? For the majority of the uncritical population, physical money might come to mind, with an acknowledgment that currencies like gold are the most precious. Of course, those less oriented toward material gratification might argue that natural resources such as: Fresh water, clean air, healthy ecosystems, or productive agricultural land are the world’s most precious commodities. But is there something more precious than these?
Before we posit an answer, let’s begin with a definition. What is a precious commodity? The word precious implies that it is something incredibly valuable, that is difficult to acquire and/or retain. The term commodity suggests something that is useful, helpful, and necessary for human existence. So a precious commodity is an incredibly valuable thing that is necessary for a healthy human existence. With that definition in mind, I want to suggest that the most precious of all commodities is the fruitful use of time. Yes, time!
But what is time? Time is not a material thing that one can acquire, yet we perceive it can be bought and sold, lost and found, squandered and redeemed. From a merely existential standpoint, time is little more than a perception of the reality we inhabit. It is, in effect, a phenomenon of our flawed existence, serving to reminds us we are all decaying and moving toward something final. Time only applies to those trapped in this, appropriately deemed, temporal existence. Consequently, the notion of time challenges us to look beyond and ask, ‘What is behind this transitory existence?’, ‘What comes next?’ Time, then, is a harbinger of the ultimate reality–eternity.
Yet time, or more accurately, the opportunity time affords us, is at our disposal–to use or abuse. Indeed, we have been entrusted by God, with this precious resource, to effectively ‘make the most’ of it–to employ it his eternal reality in view. So how do we handle this precious commodity, slipping through our fingers even as we contemplate it?
Earlier on I stated that the ‘fruitful use’ of time is the most precious of commodities. That is to say, time is only valuable if it is responsibly appreciated and fruitfully used. Indeed, those who don’t appreciate it, invariably squander the valuable opportunities it affords.
But, to gain a divine perspective on this responsible use of time, let us consider the Apostle Paul’s view. Paul was a man fully aware of his own fleeting existence and the necessity to ‘make the most’ of it, he writes…
” See then that ye walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil. Wherefore be ye not unwise, but understanding what the will of the Lord is.” Ephesians 5:15-17 (KJV)
For Paul, responsible human existence is oriented morally, represented by a life aligned with the moral character of God. Paul knows that human sin plunged the world into the plight we are now endure, and that God, principally through the work of Jesus Christ, has precipitated the redemption of this fallen existence, and that he has graciously granted his divine Spirit to empower the redeemed existence of all who have entrusted their lives to Jesus. With this as the predicate, Paul is able to suggest a way of living that enables redeemed humans to make the most of their fleeting existence–to capitalize on the time given them.
His first challenge is to ‘walk circumspectly’, which is an old fashioned way of saying ‘be careful how you live’. That is, Paul challenges Christians not to uncritically adopt the lifestyle of the pagan culture around them, but actually think carefully and prudently how they are to live on a day to day basis. He suggests not to live like the fool, who uncritically embraces any and everything that is presented to him/her, but be wise and sift through all the ‘sensible’ data presented, only engaging in that which is helpful and useful for your redeemed life in Christ.
Then he offers up this sage advice, ‘redeeming the time, for the days are evil’. Surely you would agree, that this is as relevant today as it was then ( perhaps even more so)? Just as the Christian person has been redeemed ( rescued) by Christ from their futile existence, they are similarly instructed to redeem the time at their disposal, for good, not allowing it to be consumed by the evil culture surrounding them. And, it doesn’t take too much deep reflection to work out that there are many ‘evil distractions’ vying for our precious time–toxic social media, television, the pursuit of all kinds of meaningless temporal human endeavours such as getting rich, seeking pleasure, living for the approval of others.
But what is it to ‘redeem the time’? For those acculturated by religion, there is a temptation to think that redeeming the time, might pertain to giving up secular pursuits and get involved in religious pursuits–use your time for ‘the work of God’. Which, of course, is to suggest little more than leave ‘the world’ and join the cloistered existence of ‘the religious monastery’. However, this is not what Paul has in mind. Rather, he is implying a life ‘in the world’ that remains exposed to those needing redemption, whilst not succumbing to the evil culture they are entrenched in. Redeeming the time, means remaining in a reality where time needs to be redeemed–exposing yourself actively to the ‘evil world’, as a beacon in the darkness, whilst resisting it allure.
This being the case, redeeming time is an active moment by moment endeavour, a constant decision making process of what to accept or reject. It is a perpetual way of life, that requires vigilant alertness and bold forthrightness. Many and strong are the demands on a Christian person’s precious time. It requires a day by day seeking of the Lord’s will, and a diligent practice of aligning oneself with God’s Spirit.
Therefore, redeeming the time, or reclaiming timely opportunity for a fruitful life with God, begins with taking time to reflect on a daily basis on God’s will. Usually, beginning the day with some instruction from His Word, a time of unhurried reflective contemplation on the day ahead, and a time of dedicating that day to God, in prayer. Having done so, the Christian person has actively embraced a mindset that enables them to steward the time allotted to them wisely, using it to glorify God and advance his cause through a holy life.
Time is precious, the most precious commodity we have. But it is running out fast–soon it will be all gone. The opportunities it presents and the temptations that threaten its fruitful use are often only momentary, and we have be ready to respond appropriately. Using time well, begins with a choice, a choice to live on God’s agenda, to live a holy circumspect life that reflects God’s kingdom rule and anticipates its ultimate coming; a choice to claim every precious moment for God’s eternal purposes, before it is claimed by another for some unfruitful ‘this worldly’ cause.
It’s time to make our time count.