Let’s be honest. We are generally terrible with time as Africans (with some notable exceptions). We never really keep appointments, our meetings start and end late and generally all our programs start with an apology about it starting an hour or more late and official programs have a starting time but no ending time. That in itself says a lot. I was at a pastors conference where some speakers where from several African countries and a few from the USA. As we were putting final touches on our notes in the speakers lounge two brothers from the USA were frantically working on theirs because they had a meeting coordinated by African brothers in a few minutes (the meeting was planned at 13:00 hours), or so they believed! They finished going over their notes and said yes it’s time for out meeting. They waited for a few minutes then went out to look for the coordinators. To cut the story short they came back clearly frustrated and continued studying. One of them remarked “I guess that’s how things work in Africa” as painful as that was, it was actually very true. That meeting eventually took place at night!
If you have lived in Africa for any period of time, you know that’s the order of the day. Not only don’t we keep time, but we generally struggle with using it wisely or in the words of scripture making the most of our time. There are two reasons why we are often not mindful of how we use our time. The first is a worldview issue. In the African worldview, time is not viewed in terms of seconds, minutes or hours but in blocks of time. So if you typically ask an African what time you are meeting instead of saying specific time i.e. 10:00 hours, they will say in the morning. Consequently, as long as its morning the appointment stands. Furthermore relationships are more important to Africans than time. So if someone pops in unannounced you drop what you were doing and attend to them. Similarly it’s more important that the person has come than that they have come on time.
The second reason we are not mindful of time is a failure to grasp biblical teachings on time. When one surveys the scriptures you soon discover that the bible has quite a bit of truths or principals for Christians to live by. Let me share three of them and then we will look at the implications.
Time is our greatest asset- Matthew 25:14-18
The parable of the steward primary teaches us the need to be prepared to give an account to the Lord our master and use the gifts he has blessed us within the time he has given us wisely. It is interesting that though the talents were different, the time was the same. We may differ in gifts and abilities but we have the same amount of time. The same minutes, hours, days and weeks. The really difference is how we use and manage our time. In other words, the Lord is actually going to judge us on how we use and manage our time. Hence the need to make most of our time because time is our greatest asset the Lord has given us. So where relationships are important and it’s true we should not become slaves of time, we definitely should not waste our time.
Time is a non- renewable resource- Psalm 90:10-12, 78:39
Don Whitney once tweeted “If we wasted our money the way we waste our time, we would say that person is made”. Of all the resources on earth, time is the only one you can never recover. The moment time is gone it is gone. The years you have spent here on earth are over, you will never get them back. The few minutes you have spent reading this blog are gone. I hope it was worth your time J. If we actually grasped this truth about time, we would place a high value on time such that we would desire to make the most of it. We need to truly develop the heart to number our days. In other ways live in light of eternity and pending judgement. Value your time.
There is a time for everything Proverbs 24:27, Ecclesiastes 3:1
God is a God of order. He gave us an example in creation. He worked within time and days. And when he created he ordered that there be a time and a season for everything. The seasons have their time and the sun and moon have their order of operation. Anything less would be chaos. What is actually interesting is that in the villages this truth is grasped and practiced when it comes to farming. The farmers know that there is a time to prepare the land, a time to till the land, to plant, weed and harvest. How we miss this concept in other aspects of our lives I have no idea.
The heart of the issue
When you actually think about it, a lack of regard for time is pride. It is reveals a high view of self and low view of God and others. Why do I say so? A person who does not make the most of their time is refusing to realize and acknowledge his stewardship to God. It is also a total disregard to others. Failure to observe time is implying other people have nothing to do with their time and you are so important that they should simply wait for you. Whenever a meeting starts and ends late, the people who suffer are those who keep time. We punish the time keepers to please the late comers.
Another important thing to note with people who are poor at time management is the plain fact that they are disorganized. People who cannot keep time or use their time wisely are often times disorganized individuals. These are people who do things at the last minute and appear very busy running around when in actual fact they did not plan and prepare in advance. We also need to learn that just because you have an excuse for your poor time keeping does not mean your disorganization should be excused.
The Lord has blessed us with time. Let us learn to number our days and make the most of our time.