In the Screwtape Letters by C. S. Lewis, Uncle Screwtape, a senior ranking devil writes letters of advice to his nephew, Wormwood, a junior tempter. In one letter he directs the attention of his young nephew to the following point, “…you will have noticed that nothing throws (a person) into a passion so easily as to find a tract of time which he reckoned on having at his own disposal unexpectedly taken from him. […] (This perceived loss angers) him because he regards his time as his own and feels that it is being stolen.” Screwtape goes on to encourage the young temper to, “Let him have the feeling that he starts each day as the lawful possessor of twenty-four hours. Let him feel as a grievous tax that portion of this property which he has to make over to his employers, and as a generous donation that further portion which he allows to religious duties.”
C.S. Lewis concludes, “…man can neither make, nor retain, one moment of time; it all comes to him by pure gift; he might as well regard the sun and moon as his (personal possessions).” In the end, man has no ownership over time, and the idea of ownership of time is a foolish notion, being that our time is clearly God given, and God’s to cease giving.
My realization in reading this piece is that, while I desire to give all of myself to Christ, the thing I most selfishly cling to and begrudgingly relinquish is the last of my free time. I place a higher value on time than on possessions or money, and where the cliché will say, “time is money,” I literally treasure my time. I’m not talking about moments in time or memories, but literally, the time itself – the free time to do what I want to do, even if it is doing nothing. Christ says, “Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also,” and where many will link this verse to monetary wealth, I have been forced to make an examination of how I spend my time, and called to make a better effort to steward my time in ways that better please and glorify God.
This text further disturbed me as I truly want to believe I endeavor to have a servant’s heart. I am by no means fully self-sacrificing, but I believe I desire to be. I believe this begins with the recognition that we are not our own, but were bought at a price (1 Corinthians 6:19). The cost of our souls was the life of our God in the flesh. He cashed His life in, purchasing ours, and covering our debt. Christ gave his life, not just in death, but also in living sinlessly (in traveling, teaching, preaching, and healing – always doing the work and will of God even when it conflicted with his own self-preservation). Christ did this all to pay the cost to reconcile us sinners to the Father. Hence we should recognize we are not our own.
If I acknowledge that I am not my own, and I willingly give my life to Christ, then certainly, in fullness, this must include the forfeiture of my time, which clearly I have idolatrized and continue to place far too high a value on. Our lives (not our existences, but our lives as we perceive them here on earth) are truly just the days our souls spend encapsulated in these present vessels – our earthly bodies. God, however, promises that our souls exist independently of this earth (where time constrains), and are eternal. Somehow the idolatrizing of time must absolutely be indicative of a lack of faith in the eternality of our souls. Who would be so concerned with every minute, if we believed we had forever?
Psalm 90:12 says, teach us to number our days. This demonstrates that our days in this body are limited, come at a high premium, and should not be wasted. This, however, does not mean that we should be selfishly and fearfully hoarding our time for the purposes of self-worship – making ourselves our highest priority, and seeking endeavors that ultimately come to nothing more than our own vanity. We are offered such a limited time to come to know Christ, to introduce others to Him, and to get to the business to which He has called us. With this in mind I feel a very real need to let go of my grasp on time and invest it in ways that better satisfy Him. In doing so I believe I will also be better satisfied in Him. After all, it would seem that neither legacies nor memories are ever built in the moments when we are hoarding time, but always in the moments when we are spending it.