Time: Life's Most Valuable Commodity

What, exactly, is “time”? Man has never yet technically answered this question despite thousands of years of reflection upon the definition and nature of time. John Wesley defined time as “a fragment of eternity broken off at both ends.” This definition is appropriate because it recognizes not only the confines of the past, present, and future but also the reality of eternity. Although we may not be able to adequately understand the nature and physics of time, we do know several of its characteristics: It is inelastic; it dominates and controls our lives; it is measurable; it is irreversible; it is limited.

Our time on earth is a grace gift from God, and we are responsible for every second we live. We will one day give an account of whether we have spent our time or invested it. Please take the time to read Psalm chapter 90, for in this psalm we find Moses’ prayer in the wilderness as the children of Israel were wandering and dying as the result of their sin and unbelief. This psalm portrays Moses’ view of God, of life and of man’s need to wisely invest the time God has given him. Time is life’s most valuable commodity. Therefore, as good stewards of the time entrusted to us, we must wisely use our time that God has given us on this earth.

Moses understood the limitations and value of time. He acknowledged God as the Creator of time while also recognizing God as being eternal—outside of time. He knew that God had always existed and that He always will exist. As the human author of the Pentateuch, he also knew that God created all things but that He was never created (v. 2 cf. Gen. 1:1).

Although God is outside of time, He created time and uses it to fulfill His plan and purpose. He created morning and night and literal 24-hour days. Jesus came to earth “when the fulness of the time was come” (Gal 4:4) and lived to be 33 years old. He arose three days after His death. He will reign on this earth for 1000 years. He has created time and uses it but is outside of time because He has always existed and always will exist. It is impossible for us in our natural, finite minds to comprehend the eternality of God. However, because we know God created time and uses it to fulfill His plan and purpose, we as His creation must be sure we are likewise investing our time to further His purpose and will.

Moses not only understood the eternality of God, but he also recognized that man’s life is extremely brief. He knew that God controls the amount of time a man is allowed to have on earth (v. 3). Moses also knew that in light of eternity, man’s time on earth is terribly short. He likens the brevity of man’s life to a single day (v. 4), to a “watch in the night” (a span of three hours, v. 4), to the swift destruction of flood waters (v. 5a), to sleep (v. 5b), to grass (vv. 5c-6) and to a passing thought (v. 9b). Similarly in the New Testament, James compares man’s life to a vapor that “appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away” (Jas. 4:13-14).

Moses also knew that this brevity of life and the subsequent wrath of God upon mankind came about as a result of sin (vv. 7-9). We were not created to experience death and judgment but to glorify our Creator. However, in the wilderness, God often immediately judged His people for their unbelief and disobedience. The average Israelite lived to be 70 years old in the wilderness, and those who lived longer only had to endure yet more labor and sorrow (v. 10).

Not only did Moses understand the eternality of God and the brevity of human life, but he also understood man’s need to make the most of his days. He asked God in verse 12 to “teach us to number our days.” The reason?—“that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom.” To “number our days” means to consider each day of value. To “number” is to schedule, to measure out, to appoint the minutes and seconds of our days to do that which is wise in order to fulfill the purpose and plan of God. When we discipline ourselves to number our days, we will apply our hearts unto wisdom. We will experience the gladness and satisfaction that comes with investing our time for eternity (vv. 14-16), and the Lord will establish the work of our hands. This means that He will be pleased and honored by how we utilize our time (v. 17).

Time is opportunity. The way we use our time reveals our values and priorities. When we waste our time by habitually doing that which is unproductive or counterproductive to our Christian life, we are not only wasting our time but God’s time as well. It must grieve the Holy Spirit when we throw away the opportunity to improve our relationship with the Lord and to glorify Him by fulfilling His will. Today, purpose to manage your time wisely and invest it for the glory of God. We will fully understand the value of time only when it is no more. But then, it will be too late. We only have so much time allotted to us on this earth. But because we will live forever with our Lord, we must be sure that we make our time on earth count for all eternity. How we invest our time now determines our future reward—or lack thereof. Are you spending your time on earth, or are you investing your time?

— Pastor Matt Costella