On Wasting Time (Edwards)

One thing that crosses my mind quite often is how I use the time God has given me. The Bible teaches that our days our numbered (Ps. 139:16). God has given us a certain amount of time to live. It follows that we need to be good stewards of time. In fact, a biblical prayer even asks God for wisdom in this area: “Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom” (Ps. 90:12 NIV; see also 39:4).

In our cultural situation one of the most common ways to waste time happens in front of a screen. From scrolling Facebook or Instagram to reading Reddit rabbit trails to Play Station to watching countless YouTube videos, it’s so easy to waste several hours a day in front of a screen. Of course, there’s nothing wrong with some screen time in moderation or for a good purpose that is beneficial to life. Not all screen time is wasted time. But quite often much screen time is wasted time.

On this topic of time and time stewardship, Paul wrote “…Be careful how you walk, not as unwise men but as wise, making the most of your time, because the days are evil” (Eph. 5:15-16 NASB). Some of us are familiar with the Geneva Bible translation of these verses, which mentions “redeeming the time.” Jonathan Edwards wrote a little essay on this verse and topic: “The Preciousness of Time and the Importance of Redeeming It.” The essay isn’t quite as helpful as I was hoping, but Edwards does make some excellent points in it. I’ll share some here:

Time is very short, which is another thing that renders it very precious. …Time ought to be esteemed by us very precious, because we are uncertain of its continuance.

Every day that you have enjoyed has been precious; yea, your moments have been precious. But have you not wasted your precious moments, your precious days, yea your precious years? …And if God, who hath given you your time, should now call you to an account, what account could you give to him?

Time is a thousand times more precious than money; and when it is gone, cannot be purchased for money, cannot be redeemed by silver or gold.

Time is a talent given us by God; he hath set us our day; and it is not for nothing, our day was appointed for some work; therefore he will, at the day’s end, call us to an account. We must give account to him of the improvement of all our time.

Though all time is very precious, yet some parts are more precious than others; as, particularly, holy time is more precious than common time. Such time is of great advantage for our everlasting welfare; therefore, above all, improve your sabbaths, and especially the time of public worship, which is the most precious part. Lose it not either in sleep, or in carelessness, inattention, and wandering imaginations.

These are some good insights for us to think about as we seek to make the most of the time God has given us. “Lord, teach us to number our days, train us to be good stewards of our time, help us not to squander it, but make the most of it in a way that brings you glory and is a blessing to those around us.”

The above quotes are found in Jonathan Edwards, The Works of Jonathan Edwards (Banner of Truth Trust, 1974), p 233ff.

Shane Lems
Covenant Presbyterian Church (OPC)
Hammond, WI, 54015

3 Replies to “On Wasting Time (Edwards)”

  1. Good quotes Richard Baxter wrote a very good essay on Redeeming Time. I just posted it a few days ago one chap specified on that from the small booklet…i forget the name but can be found and read free at Chapel Library. God bless

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