How many times do you find yourself, late in the evening, feeling like you need a little bit more time to get things done around the house? How much quality time are you missing with your spouse or kids each day after a long day at work? Did you turn down that ministry or service opportunity at church because you didn’t think you had the time to dedicate to it? How are you doing at being consistent in taking time to seek God’s voice in His Word? Do you find yourself saying, “I wish I had more time”?
This is very likely a universal problem, though I can’t say I’ve ever seen any research on the topic. Today’s rapidly innovating technology promises to help you be more productive with your work, be more efficient with what you do, and do more with less time, but, in our hearts, I think we all know it doesn’t always turn out that way. The promise of greater productivity, by and large, is the premise behind smartphones and the never-ending list of productivity “apps” now available (apps=software that run on your mobile device or web browser). On top of that, there are the often-knocked social media sites that everyone knows can be a huge time-suck, whether you use them for good or not.
To be clear, I do not criticize the use of Facebook, the internet, mobile devices, or any technology. But I do want to take this opportunity to point our hearts to Scripture on this issue. I am reminded that, as Christians, we are called to be intentional and to take action-oriented steps toward making good use of our time. The fact is that we all get the exact same amount of time in a day; we just need to learn to be intentional about how we use the time we have and the technology tools we have at our disposal.
The challenge mobile devices and the internet can present is that they make time-wasting easier, more private and more accessible. It used to be that if your kid was spending too much time in front of the TV, you could hear him and promptly send him or her outside to play. Nowadays, with more pre-teens, teens and adults owning smartphones and mobile gaming devices, maintaining healthy transparency and accountability for the use of time has become increasingly challenging.
Educator Neil Postman suggested in his writings that the increase in technology has caused us to be constantly “amusing ourselves to death.” In his likewise titled book, “Amusing Ourselves to Death,” Postman says, “[M]ost of our daily news is inert, consisting of information that gives us something to talk about but cannot lead to any meaningful action….” Doesn’t that make you think about the things we often read on Facebook? I don’t know if Neil Postman is a Christ follower or not, but his words seem rather prophetic considering his research was done in 1985 before mobile web-enabled devices and social media sites like Facebook and Twitter had been invented.
To be clear, I don’t always agree with Postman’s end-assessments of the net impact of technology. It is not technology itself that is evil or sinful but rather what negative things we do and how we inappropriately use it.
Facebook can be a positive tool used to encourage others or to connect in real-world relationships. Your mobile device might allow you to be more productive at work so that you can come home and spend a little more time with your family. Many national Christian leaders and influencers are using social media to be a voice in a lost world and to influence our culture for Christ’s kingdom. I’ve even seen incredibly effective use of YouTube for tele-evangelism efforts. I also know of a great worship music guitar lesson video series I enjoy watching on YouTube from time to time.
Obviously, as Christians, we have the responsibility to question why we do what we do and to question whether Christ would have us spend our time in such manner. Ephesians 5:15-18 tells us, “15 Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, 16 making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. 17 Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is. 18 Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit….”
That’s the key—making use of every opportunity. In the field of economics, there is a term, “opportunity cost”. That is, what other things could you be investing in with your money (or time) if you were not using it for what you are using it for now? So, while I may feel that what I need to do on the internet at any given moment is rather important, if the opportunity cost is that I miss out spending time with my son before his bedtime, perhaps what I’m doing is not worth all that much after all.
I find that passage in Ephesians interesting in its connecting the exhortation to be wise with our time with the call to be self-controlled with wine. Notice what Ephesians tells us about how God wants us to fill our time! He calls us to be filled with the Spirit. So, are you “drunk” with Angry Birds, Words-with-Friends, Facebook or your favorite TV show? Are you and your kids making wise use of your time?
My prayer is that you are striving to spend dedicated time allowing God’s Spirit to fill your heart and disciplining your kids to grow in a thirst for an intimate relationship with God! In view of the bigger picture, we all can learn to put God and our interpersonal relationships higher on the priority list of how we use our time.
Next month, just in time for the New Year, I’ll share 4 simple steps you can take to get better at redeeming your time and at helping your kids redeem their time.