Making Time for Family
Scripture: Ephesians 5:15–17
Psychology Today says, “How we spend our time says a lot about who we are.”
With all of the technology at our disposal today, one might imagine that we would have more free time than ever—but that hardly seems to be the case in most households. Between work, school, children’s activities, and everything else demanding attention, it seems our schedules have no margin at all. According to a US Bureau of Labor and Statistics study in 2013, the average American adult spends each weekday working 8.7 hours, sleeping 7.7 hours, and filling another 3.3 with household chores and life necessities. That leaves only around four hours to really live life: worship, pray, connect with loved ones, exercise, and simply relax. That’s not much margin!
The apostle Paul addresses this very challenge in Ephesians 5:15–17, and offers us tremendous insight into how our families might get the most out of every day.
Ephesians 5:15-17 (KJV) 15 See then that ye walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise, 16 Redeeming the time, because the days are evil. 17 Wherefore be ye not unwise, but understanding what the will of the Lord is.
The passage challenges each of us to ask three questions about our calendars:
- Where does my time go?
Verse 15 challenges us to “walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise.” Young’s Literal Translation helps us better understand the significance of the idea of being very careful: “See then exactly how you walk.” The Greek word he uses (akribos, from which we get acrobatic) is calling us, in essence, to aim our lives in a very specific direction. To pay close attention to how we’re spending our time.
When you take the time to conduct an inventory of your own schedule, you might be surprised where your time is going. You might also find that you have more time than you think!
When you’re cleaning out a closet, what do you do? You take everything out, evaluate each item, and then begin returning things to the closet. But not everything makes the cut. Invariably, you come upon things that are wasting space and can be discarded. Then, even the things you replace can be returned in a more orderly fashion. By the time you’re done, it’s often shocking how much space you really have. The same goes for our calendars.
It shouldn’t be a surprise that God would challenge us to pay attention to our time. Time management is God’s idea. In Genesis 1, during the creation account, God made the day and night on day one. He separated the light from the darkness. But God didn’t make the sun, moon, and stars until day four. Why did He make them? Verse 14 tells us they were to be “for signs and seasons, and for days and years.” God created a predictable cycle of days, months, seasons, and years so that we could monitor and manage our schedules.
We are online a lot more than we would like to believe. It was a shocking revelation for me to realize how much time I spend engaging in our 24/7 world. Electronics rule our lives. Whether you are in your car, tapping your destination into your navigation system, or checking email via your hand-held while waiting in the check-out line, it seems our hyper-plugged in world has enslaved us. The online community is as enticing as a siren, drawing you closer to its virtuality while sucking our time like vampire out of the real important things of real life like family.
A second question is a bit more surprising:
- Where does my time go?
- What is wasting my time?
If you look closely at the passage, you’ll find this to be a key time management question that many people miss. Ephesians 5:15 includes the word then—pointing back to verses one to fourteen. Any time there is a “then” or “therefore” in a passage, it reveals that the words are a concluding thought from the previous one. What is Paul speaking of in the previous verses? He is calling on God’s people to step out of darkness and into the light. Paul had concluded the passage in verse 14 with what is likely an ancient hymn: “Awake, you who sleep, arise from the dead, and Christ will give you light.” He’s offering the illustration of missing out on life because of the empty pursuit of things that are not of God.
Once you are saved, you experience the security of God’s grace. The enemy cannot rob you of your salvation, but he can rob you of your effectiveness in the time you have on earth.
According to a Study in Daily productivity, the three biggest time wasters are: 1) Email; 2) Social Media; and 3) Meetings. And I can attest, this is true for me. These are distractions that rob us of precious time.
As an example, think about pickpockets. Pickpockets seem very skilled at grabbing something without drawing notice from the victim. But how can a person not feel his wallet being removed, for example? It’s not necessarily their skill at sleight of hand, but the pickpockets’ skill at distraction that allows the theft. Pickpockets show you postcards, pretend to help, bump into you from the side, or even ask for help. They don’t have to be perfect; they only have to distract you. That’s how the enemy works: distractions!
Sin is destructive in many ways, but one of its losses is simply robbing the sinner of all the time that could be invested in God’s work. Sin’s distraction results in long-term destruction.
One of the most important steps to good time management is to repent of any known sin and ask the Lord to show you any subtle ways you might be disobeying God. And then, you’re ready for the third question:
- Where does my time go?
- What is wasting my time?
- What choices need to be made?
Look back at verse 16, and the call to “redeeming the time,” or as it says in the NIV, “make the most of every opportunity.” Given the call to discernment in the previous verse, Paul then makes the case for choosing the best over the second-best. To make the most of any opportunity means to set aside the lesser opportunities that arise.
The very first computers operated on a simple system in which they were able to read only two things: ones and zeroes. Every decision these supercomputers made was nothing more than a series of ones and zeroes. Computers today use the exact same system. Even the fastest, most modern PCs on the market today read only two things: ones and zeroes. They just read more of them and read them faster. Our lives are very much the same. No matter what your background or place of employment or family status or hopes and dreams, your life can be explained by a continual string of two decisions: yeses and nos. Every day when you wake up, you begin making yes and no decisions—choices that will determine both your outcome for the day, your destiny in life, and the legacy you leave behind.
And in reality, those yeses and no’s determine our priorities in life. Our true priorities are the things we say yes to at the expense of all other commitments and distractions. They get the first yes on our calendar, and the unimportant things get a no answer until the priorities have been fulfilled. That’s how priorities are lived out in real life.
One day this expert was speaking to a group of business students and, to drive home a point, used an illustration I’m sure those students will never forget. After I share it with you, you’ll never forget it either.
As this man stood in front of the group of high-powered over-achievers he said, “Okay, time for a quiz.” Then he pulled out a one-gallon, wide-mouthed mason jar and set it on a table in front of him. Then he produced about a dozen fist-sized rocks and carefully placed them, one at a time, into the jar.
When the jar was filled to the top and no more rocks would fit inside, he asked, “Is this jar full?” Everyone in the class said, “Yes.” Then he said, “Really?” He reached under the table and pulled out a bucket of gravel. Then he dumped some gravel in and shook the jar causing pieces of gravel to work themselves down into the spaces between the big rocks.
Then he smiled and asked the group once more, “Is the jar full?” By this time the class was onto him. “Probably not,” one of them answered. “Good!” he replied. And he reached under the table and brought out a bucket of sand. He started dumping the sand in and it went into all the spaces left between the rocks and the gravel. Once more he asked the question, “Is this jar full?”
“No!” the class shouted. Once again he said, “Good!” Then he grabbed a pitcher of water and began to pour it in until the jar was filled to the brim. Then he looked up at the class and asked, “What is the point of this illustration?”
One eager beaver raised his hand and said, “The point is, no matter how full your schedule is, if you try really hard, you can always fit some more things into it!”
“No,” the speaker replied, “that’s not the point. The truth this illustration teaches us is: If you don’t put the big rocks in first, you’ll never get them in at all.”
What are the big rocks in your life? A project that you want to accomplish? Time with your loved ones? Your faith, your education, your finances? A cause? Teaching or mentoring others? Remember to put these Big Rocks in first or you’ll never get them in at all.
Considering the high calling of the Christian life and the high priority of home life, we cannot afford to let our days pass by wasted and unfruitful.
What will you say yes to? The most important place to begin is saying yes to Jesus. Allow Him to be the master of your life—and your family—and the rest will begin to be more fruitful than you ever imagined.