By Roger D. Campbell
Does the expression “redeeming the time” sound familiar to you? It is found in two New Testament passages, both penned by the apostle Paul (Ephesians 5:16 and Colossians 4:5), and in both instances, “redeeming the time” is set forth as something that God wants His children to do.
Just like any other instruction that the Lord gives us to carry out, before we properly can “redeem the time,” we have to understand what that term means. So, what does it mean to “redeem” the time? “Redeem” is from the Greek word “exagorazo,” which is defined as “to redeem by payment of a price to recover from the power of another, to ransom, buy off … to buy up, to buy up for one’s self … to make wise and sacred use of every opportunity for doing good, so that zeal and well doing are as it were the purchase money by which we make the time our own” [Thayer, word no. 1805; via e-Sword].
We see that the concept of “redeeming the time” means to buy up, that is, make good use of the time which we have. The Lord requires that stewards be found faithful (1 Corinthians 4:2). That would include being wise users of the time which He has placed in our hands. If you think that is an easy idea to grasp but a much tougher one to apply in our daily lives, I agree wholeheartedly.
Is there anything that could help motivate us to be good users of our time? Consider the contexts in which the expression “redeeming the time” is employed in the Bible. Immediately after asking the saints in Colosse to pray for him, Paul charged them, “Walking in wisdom toward those who are outside, redeeming the time. Let your speech always be with grace, seasoned with salt, that you may know how you ought to answer each one” (Colossians 4:5,6). In this passage, “redeeming the time” is associated with how we interact with and influence those who are outside of the Lord’s church. We are to speak appropriately to them and demonstrate wisdom in our in our dealings with such folks, and we do that, in part, by redeeming the time. Thus, properly redeeming the time can increase our ability to have a positive influence on non-saints.
There is also the Ephesians 5 passage : “See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil” (Ephesians 5:15,16). Here, the motivation to redeem the time is two fold: (1) We should do it because we want to be wise and not fools, and (2) we ought to do so since the days are evil. You know, people could become even more cold-hearted, and society could become further entrenched in darkness, as Paul once noted: “But evil men and impostors will grow worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived” (2 Timothy 3:13)
As we think about redeeming the time, we are reminded that some doors are open for only a limited period of time. If we do not take advantage of the opportunities with which we are blessed, they might disappear and never return in the future. If you are still a student, the best time for you to have a godly influence on your classmates and reach out to them with the gospel is right now. If you want to fill up your mind with Scriptures (Psalm 119:11), do it at the earliest age possible, as our memory just does not work as well as we grow older. If we desire to teach the gospel to a particular group of people or in a particular country, we need to go while the door is still open! After Paul received a come-help-us call from Macedonia, he redeemed the time and rushed over to preach (Acts 16:9,10).
Life is both fragile and uncertain. It is like a vapor, shadow, and a flower—gone “before you know it.” We need to learn to appreciate the time that we have. I just learned today that my aunt died recently—she was one day shy of her 103rd birthday. On the other hand, some humans never make it to their third birthday. May the Lord help us to be grateful for each day, each hour, eachmoment.
What are some time robbers against which you have to fight? Now we are getting personal! Be honest with yourself. What is it that you know takes “way too much of your time?” Prioritize. As a follower of the Christ, God comes first. Family come second, and everything else, well, everything else fits in somewhere after those two top matters. What is it that is eating into and taking away your time in the Lord’s service and your family time? You do not need to make a list of twenty items. Start with the one or two biggest culprits and work on getting control of how you use your time.
We all have 168 hours in a week. “Redeeming the time” is a serious duty. Let us get our priorities straight and then go to work on our self-discipline.