I was once involved in the organizing of a football tournament with a group of dear Christians. We were generally on top of things and seemingly on the same page as to what needed to be done. The day before the event we had our last meeting just to go over a few things and tie up loose ends. Every item on the to do list was checked and as we were concluding I reminded everyone to come 30 minutes before the tournament started, to set up so that we do not delay with registration and the formalities. “You are not taking the time on the flier literally are you?” was the question a dear friend asked me. “No one is coming that early!” was his second statement. We got engaged in a heated debate as to whether we should stick to the time we set and disqualify any team that comes late as we had warned we would on the flier. He then left me speechless (well not quite) when he smiled and asked me if I was serious, to which I replied in the affirmative then he said and I quote “ you will live a very frustrated life in Zambia with such principles”.
Unfortunately that is the sad reality! Stewardship of time is one area we have failed as Zambians and to a large extent Africans. People do not only come late to programs and appointments but they do so casually! The worst part is that whoever makes an issue of time is looked upon with scorn, it’s like you have fallen from planet Jupiter. I dread public functions like weddings, because you are almost guaranteed of wasting time. In my entire life I have only been to two weddings were time was kept. You can imagine how frustrating my life is (I couldn't resist)? Sadly even church meetings and programs are like that in some cases. They start late and end late!!!! There are meetings that have a starting time and no ending time stated. It is the same with appointments, you agree to meet a specific time and someone comes thirty minutes late and they are totally unmoved. How can you progress and develop with such kind of attitude?
Now that I have vented and expressed my frustrations it is important at this point to ask what is wrong with African time. Does the bible give us any instructions and principles to apply with regard to time? There are actually several passages that teach us at least four principles about the use of time. The overarching theme concerning time is that whatever we do now affects eternity. How you use your time counts forever is a principle Moses brings out quite clearly in Psalm 90 as he shows that God is from everlasting to everlasting, while man is frail and short lived. And the everlasting God carries out judgment in His wrath. And Moses rightly prays in verse 12, “teach us to number our days that we present to you a heart of wisdom” In other words time is not African time is God’s. He created it and gave to us. We shouldn't make it African, European or any other people group.
The preciousness of time cannot be over emphasized. And as with all precious things it should be treated with utmost care. Time is precious because it is short Job 14:1 says, “man who is born of a woman is short lived and full of turmoil” in other words time is in short supply and on high demand. We have so little time to fulfill our God given purpose on earth and we cannot afford to waste any of it doing nothing in the name of African time. Especially that time lost can never be recovered.
The other principle the bible teaches us is that time is uncertain. James 4:13-18 says, “Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit" yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes Instead you ought to say, "If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that." As it is, you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil.” We are not granted of tomorrow we should do all we can while we have the time and James summarizes the thought by saying to him who knows to do good and does not do it to him it is sin.
The other problem with African time is that it has no regard for other people. It is quite self-centered. Wasting people’s time is esteeming yourself better than others; therefore you feel they can wait for you, since they do not have anything important to do with their time. It is lack of consideration and respect for other people. Especially that we rarely have genuine reasons for being late.
It is important to remember that we are Christians who also happen to be Africans and not Africans who happen to be Christians. African time is sin! We cannot continue living such a sinful attitude under the disguise of being African. Let your yes be yes and your no be no. That is God’s time!