See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be unwise, but understand what the will of the Lord is.Ephesians 5:15-17 (NKJV)
Time keeps passing
I’m finding it hard to believe nearly two months of the year have disappeared already. In my mind it still feels like early January, like we’ve only just had Christmas and New Years, and honestly, I’m still kind of in holiday mode.
But in reality, the year is well and truly in swing, and time is getting away from me.
Sometimes, time feels like our enemy. The days slip past and we’re not quite sure where they go, but before we know it, one month, two months, ten months of the year have gone by and suddenly people are telling you how many days it is until Christmas again and when did that happen? What about all those things I was going to achieve this year?
And so then I say, oh well, I guess there’s always next year, and then the whole process starts all over again… and before I know it a decade or two has gone by and I seem to be no better at using my time well.
I still keep talking about the 90’s like they were only ten years ago. Where does the time go – and how do we get it back again?
How do we redeem our time?
Time management: a problem throughout the ages
It can’t be just me that has this problem. Time management has become a whole industry now. My iPhone now pops up with a little notification every Sunday morning to inform me just how many minutes I’ve wasted looking at Instagram during the week, or playing Solitaire, or checking my mail, and how many minutes more or less than last week it was. Honestly, I’m not sure I really want to know. It’s an interesting insight into my own behaviour I guess, but I’m not entirely convinced it actually helps me use my time any better.
But these kind of apps, techniques, tricks – they’re everywhere now. Countless ways to try and keep ourselves accountable for every minute, every second that slips by. We devote so much energy towards looking for an answer to that one question:
How do we use our time better?
And we say it’s a modern problem, but you know, I think humans have always struggled with this question. It seems like it was an issue back in Paul’s day, when he was writing to the Ephesians.
“See then that you walk circumspectly,” he writes, “not as fools but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil.”
Redeem the time, he says. Rescue it, recover it, get it back again, because the days are evil. Get it back from all those competing demands, all those unseen forces that just seem to siphon it away from us, make it seem like we never have enough of it. If you look at that verse in some other translations (like NIV or NLT), you’ll find it’s sometimes translated as “making the most of every opportunity”.
Making the most of our time. It’s a familiar ambition, isn’t it? And they didn’t even have smartphones in the first century.
Kairos time – redeeming the moment
There are two words for “time” in the ancient Greek of the New Testament. You might have heard of them: there’s chronos, and there’s kairos.
The first one, chronos, is where our word chronological comes from. This is talking about sequential, measurable time – days, hours, minutes, seconds. I think most of us have a tendency to interpret time in a chronos kind of a way. It’s fairly natural to mentally break up our days into 24-hour chunks, and our weeks into seven days. We have lists of things to do, and only so many hours to get each job done. We mark out time on our calendars and daily planners, keeping track of it, measuring it, and basically trying to exert as much control over it as we can.
The second word used for time in the Bible is kairos. Kairos time isn’t measured chronologically, the way we usually think of time. You might say that kairos is measured the way God sees time – not marked by the number of hours or minutes or seconds, but marked in moments that have eternal significance. Kairos means an appointed time, or a due season. A kairos moment is the right moment.
A kairos moment is one of those moments when time, as we know it, almost seems to stop.
And this is the word for time that Paul uses in Ephesians 5:16. When he says “redeem the time,” he’s really saying “redeem the kairos.”
Redeem the moment.
Not hours, minutes, and seconds, but moments.
Does that put a different spin on things?
Being present in the kairos moment
Time is just a series of individual moments, isn’t it? Right now I can’t use yesterday’s time better, or tomorrow’s time better. All I can do in this moment is use now better. To redeem my time, I just need to be more present, here in this moment. That should be simple enough.
But sitting in that kairos moment, when it happens, can be tough. If you’re like me, you have the experience that when you’re busy, you long for free time, away from obligations, time to just be, relax, enjoy. But then when that time actually comes, we don’t always know how to make the most of it. We’re so used to urgency, to the hustle and bustle of everyday life, that those rare moments of stillness can be hard to handle. Confronting, even. Often we look around for some distraction until the moment passes by.
Being fully present, here and now, is a challenge. Maybe we’re distracted by the past, or maybe we’re distracted by the future – either way, we’re pulled away from this current moment. And then, before we know it, it’s gone.
What happens when you just sit, quietly, just you and God, with no distractions? Where does your mind go? How long before you’re itching to get up and check your messages, call a friend, turn the TV on for background noise, even do housework… anything to get away from the unrelenting stillness of this moment?
Next post we’ll look into this in more detail, but in the meantime I’d love to hear your thoughts.
How do you redeem your time? What distracts you from being present? What techniques do you have to bring back your focus?
(This is Part 1 of a series of posts adapted from a sermon delivered on 23 February 2020.)
- Stop, look, listen: redeeming each moment
- Be present: finding peace with the past and the future
- Head or heart? Faith has room for both