Time – how do you define it, how do you claim it, how do you have enough of it? What does it mean to be a good steward of time?
In the book, “Beyond the Offering Plate,” Maryann McKibben Dana laments the fact that the founder of Amazon is funding a multi-million-dollar project to help build a 10,000-year clock, a clock that will tell time for 10,000 years. I’m with Maryann – why? What kind of resources will that take? Who will keep it running for 10,000 years?
Have you thought about how much time controls our lives? I have a clock in my living room that chimes the hour. Some days, it is amazing to me how quickly an hour passes, and other days time seems to go much more slowly. Here’s the reality, time is the same every hour of the day. It is our activity and our lives that cause time to seem to move more quickly or more slowly.
What is our obsession with time? Why is it that we are so consumed by needing to know what time it is and allow time to cause us stress and frustration? Well here is the simple answer. We never really know how much time we have. Maryann says that at its worst, stewardship of time can devolve into a phrase that means self-improvement.
We want to use our time well, so we have countless tools to help us manage our time and our lives. We have apps on our phones and our computers to keep track of all our appointments. We maintain to-do lists so we don’t forget what needs to get done and set alarms to remind us where we need to be next. There are even devices that can turn off the television and the internet so that you can get work done without distractions. These tools allow you to find quiet and to offload tasks that might cause you to worry and fret that you will forget to get them done.
Let me ask you a question – are these tools going to help you live a faithful, faith-filled life? Well, maybe, but they are really tools that help you with the management of time, and not so much the stewardship of time.
So, what then is the difference? What is the Stewardship of time? Stewardship of time is our intentional consciousness of the way we spend our time and the choices we make to care for the time we have. It’s being conscious of how we live our days, how much we pack into our lives, whether we are attentive to people, and whether we are attentive to our surroundings.
Have you have heard of the 50-20-30 rule? This is a budgeting concept that Senator Elizabeth Warren popularized in her book “All Your Worth: The Ultimate Lifetime Money Plan.” It’s about budgeting your money. The basic rule is to divide your after-tax income into three categories spending 50% on needs, 20% for savings, and 30% on wants.
What if we could begin to budget our time in the same fashion as the 50-20-30 rule – 50% of our time on the things we need to do for survival? Then we would spend 20% on savings – our spiritual time – saving/preparing for eternal life. And finally, 30% on the things we want to do, things that bring us joy and fulfillment. You may find that many activities fall in more than one category. Hopefully, the things you do to enrich your spiritual life are also things that bring you joy and fulfillment.
Now think about the way we spend our time in our congregations. Ask yourself some of these questions:
- What do we give our time to in our congregations?
- Do we spend time on spiritual practices or do we simply hope they will happen?
- Do we understand that Sunday school and worship are time with God – an investment in our discipleship – not just another activity among many?
- How close do we come to spending 50% of our time together as a congregation in worship, study, and prayer?
- How do we celebrate the liturgical seasons of the church? Do we spend time in quiet waiting and patient expectation?
- Are we doing what God wants us to do or are we continuing traditions and practices that no longer transform the lives of people in our congregations and in our communities?
- When was the last time you evaluated the time you give to different ministries?
Did you know that in our newest hymnal, there is a section of hymns under the category of “Dedication and Stewardship?” And right before that section is a category called, “Celebrating Time.” These are hymns that sing about vision, the sun, the moon, morning and night, the seasons and the splendor of God’s glory. They are hymns with names like “From the Rising of the Sun” to “Day is Done.”
What would our time look like if we celebrated time from a new perspective allowing God to be in control of time instead of our time controlling us?
Associate for Stewardship
*Excerpts taken from “Beyond the Offering Plate: A Holistic Approach to Stewardship” edited by Adam J. Copeland.