Question: "What does the Bible say about time management?"
Answer: Time management is important because of the brevity of our lives. Our earthly sojourn is significantly shorter than we are inclined to think. As David so aptly points out, “You have made my days a mere handbreadth; the span of my years is as nothing before you. Each man’s life is but a breath” (Psalm 39:4–5). The apostle James echoes this: “You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes” (James 4:14). Indeed, our time on earth is fleeting—in fact, it is infinitesimally small compared to eternity. To live as God would have us live, it is essential we make the best possible use of our allotted time.
Moses prays, “Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom” (Psalm 90:12). A good way to gain wisdom is to learn to live each day with an eternal perspective. Our Creator has set eternity in our hearts (Ecclesiastes 3:11). Knowing that we will have to give an account to the One who gives us time should motivate us to use it well. C. S. Lewis understood this: “If you read history you will find that the Christians who did the most for the present world were just those who thought most of the next.”
In his letter to the Ephesians, Paul cautioned the saints, “Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil” (Ephesians 5:15–16). Living wisely involves using our time carefully. Knowing that the harvest is great and the workers are few (Luke 10:2) and that time is rapidly dwindling should help us make better use of our time to witness, both through our words and our example. We are to spend time loving others in deed and in truth (1 John 3:17–18).
There is no doubt that the responsibilities and pressures of this world vie for our attention. The myriad of things pulling us in different directions makes it easy for our time to get swallowed up in mundane, lesser matters. Those endeavors that have eternal value, then, often get pushed aside. To avoid losing focus, we need to prioritize and set goals. Additionally, to whatever extent possible, we need to delegate. Recall how Moses’ father-in-law Jethro wisely taught him to delegate some of his heavy work load (Exodus 18:13–22).
Regarding our work ethic, we remember that God did all of His work in six days and rested on the seventh. This ratio of work to rest sheds light on our Creator’s expectations relative to our own work ethic. Indeed, Proverbs 6:10–11 reveals the Lord’s disdain for slothful behavior: “A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest—and poverty will come on you like a bandit” (see also Proverbs 12:24; 13:4; 18:9; 20:4; 21:25; 26:14). Furthermore, the Parable of the Talents (Matthew 25:14–30) illustrates the tragedy of wasted opportunity as well as the importance of laboring faithfully until the Lord comes. We should work diligently in our earthly employment, but our "work" is not limited to that which we do for monetary gain. In fact, our primary focus in all that we do should be the glory of God (Colossians 3:17). Colossians 3:23–24 says, "Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving." Jesus spoke of storing up treasures in heaven (Matthew 6:19–21). We are not to work ourselves to exhaustion in the pursuit of earthly wealth (John 6:27). Rather, we are to give our best to everything to which God has called us. In all our endeavors—our relationships, our labors, our studies, serving others, the administrative details of our lives, caring for the health of our bodies, recreation, etc.—our primary focus is God. It is He who has entrusted us with this time on earth, and He is the One who directs how we spend it.
It should be noted that rest is a legitimate and needed use of time. We cannot neglect spending time with God, both in private and corporately. We are absolutely called to invest time in relationships with others and work hard in the things of life. But we also cannot neglect the refreshment He gives us through times of rest. Rest is not wasted time; it is refreshment that prepares us to make better use of time. It also reminds us that it is ultimately God who is in control and who provides for our every need. As we seek to manage our time well, we are wise to schedule regular times of rest.
Most importantly, we need to schedule regular—daily—time with God. It is He who equips us to carry out the tasks He has given us. It is He who directs our days. The worst thing we could do is manage our time as if it belongs to us. Time belongs to Him, so ask for His wisdom in how to best use it, then proceed in confidence, sensitive to His course corrections and open to God-ordained interruptions along the way.
If you are seeking to change your use of time, the first step is reflection. Make a concerted effort to consider your time management. This article shares some of what God says about time. It would be wise to further study the topic in Scripture. Consider what things God deems valuable. Consider what He has called you to specifically. Consider how much of your time you are currently investing in these things. Consider what else is taking your time. Make a list of priorities and responsibilities and ask God to direct you regarding any changes that need to be made. Reflecting on your priorities and use of time is a good practice to engage in regularly. Some find that an intentional annual review of their time management is helpful.
Regarding time, the Bible counsels that we need to place our focus on that which is eternal as opposed to the fleeting pleasures of this passing world. Accordingly, we should move forward with diligence and divine purpose as the courses of our lives progress toward God’s ultimate goal. Time spent with God and getting to know Him, through reading His Word and prayer, is never wasted. Time spent building up the body of Christ and loving others with God's love (Hebrews 10:24–25; John 13:34–35; 1 John 3:17–18) is time well spent. Time invested in sharing the gospel so that others will come to know salvation in Jesus bears eternal fruit (Matthew 28:18–20). We should live as if each minute counts—because it really does.