Time For God, part 2 – Who’s in charge of your time?

Part 1 of this Time For God series examined some possible reasons most Christians feel they just don’t have time to read the Bible and pray. We arrived at two related conclusions: (1) The abundance of choices today makes it difficult to maintain systems or routines, and (2) the abundance of choices, by its very nature, requires additional time, leaving us with less to spend on what’s most important to us.

The time management industry

For those reasons, a burgeoning time management industry has sprung up, offering people an avalanche of training and products to help us manage our time. You can read hundreds of books about managing your time. You can download time management software. You can buy time management systems that involve special notecards, binders, and color coding. You can even attend seminars to learn how to use these notecards, binders, and color codes most efficiently and effectively. And, if you want, you can make commissions selling time management products to other overwhelmed people. Even if all you need is a basic calendar, you have hundreds of options to sift through. It’s ironic, but, like everything else, choosing a time management tool requires a lot of time!

The time management industry is almost completely dominated by a worldview that makes two assumptions:

  1. Time is yours to fill.
  2. It doesn’t matter what choices you make; what matters is how you manage your choices. In other words, Little League is not better than soccer, as long as it works with your schedule. Family time is not better than time with friends, as long as you balance the two properly. In fact, if you manage your time well, you don’t ever have to make a choice! You can fit it all in: work, family, sports, school, hobbies, online games, time with friends, whatever you want.

But both these assumptions are in direct conflict with what Christians believe.

What Christians believe about time management

First, we believe that our time is not our own. Our time belongs to God—the whole day, every day, for all of life. Psalm 31:15 says, “My times are in your hands [,God]….” And Proverbs 16:3 reminds us that whatever we put into the minutes and hours God loans us needs His blessing.

Second, it does matter what we choose. There is right and wrong. Or at least “good” and “better.” Not all choices are equal. God encourages us throughout the Bible to choose wisely, to weigh the options carefully—because some are better than others, and they lead to consequences that are better than others, for ourselves and for the general good of society.

In addition, most Christians understand that our choices are a reflection of what we believe. How we spend our time is evidence of what is important to us. Someone who says, “My family means more to me than anything else,” and then spends non-work hours at the gym, or at the bar, or in front of the TV, would be considered a hypocrite.

So, many of us Christians fill our days with choices that line up with our stated values—our calendars are filled with church activities, ministries, family time, and charity work. We make “good” choices.

But we rarely stop to think about that first assumption. We easily get caught up in the idea that our time is our own, and it’s up to us to manage it well.

Time management tools

Planner2And most time management tools perpetuate that idea.

As an example, let’s apply this worldview to the idea of doing devotions or spending time with God every day. Let’s say I make a good, Christian choice, and I decide to put devotions on my schedule one day. That’s a great start. In fact, it’s the first thing on my schedule, so I’m starting my day with God. Excellent. Next, I write in all the other things I have to do that day. It’s normal, everyday stuff, just like you have on your calendar.

When you step back and look at this calendar page, what does it tell you about my opinion of God?

The subtle message is this: “Time with God is one thing of many. It is not more important or less important than my meetings at work, my family, my doctor’s appointment, or getting groceries. In fact, it’s not more or less important than my various church commitments. I have many things I choose to do today, and devotions is one of them.” It’s almost as if I’m telling God, “You know, I think a lot of you, and I think we should spend more time together. I’m going to pencil you in at 8:00am every morning.” Whoa! Who’s in charge here?

A Christian tool?

You can make “Christian” choices and use any time management tool to keep track of them. A tool is only a tool; it is not Christian or secular in and of itself. But you still need to be aware of the worldview it may be perpetuating—the idea that we are the masters of our time. This assumption is more subtle. And more pervasive.

I know of only one time management tool that has been designed from the perspective that time belongs to God, and rather than fitting Him into our plans, we need to ask Him to fit us into His! I’ll talk more about that in my next post.