In Luke 12:13-15, we read the following account,
“Then one from the crowd said to Him, ‘Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.’ But he said to him, ‘Man, who made me a judge or an arbitrator over you?’ And he said to them, ‘Take heed and beware of covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of the things he possesses.’”
Jesus, who would rebuke the disciples for not letting the little children take up his time, would not arbitrate between this man and his brother. Plainly, he told this man, “No.” The Son of God did not have time to deal with this situation of the flesh.
Consider exactly why Jesus told this man no. It wasn’t because he disliked him or thought his brother was more worthy. It wasn’t because Jesus was a stick in the mud. Rather, Jesus could see that this did not serve the mission of his Father. In John 6:38, Jesus makes this point clear, “For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will, but the will of him who sent me.” Jesus primarily concerned himself with how his actions fit into the work prepared by the Father. Was settling a dispute between two brothers about their earthly inheritance of value to the purpose at hand? As being arbitrator and judge was not part of his mission (John 12:47), Jesus told the man no.
We are a busy society, and there seems to be a constant demand for our time. Oxford University did a study in 2017 which was published in the Journal for Consumer Research. In the study, they explained that, “a busy and overworked lifestyle, rather than a leisurely lifestyle, has become an aspirational status symbol.” Culturally we’ve bought into the idea that busy equals virtue, and we leave ourselves over exerted and lacking in enthusiasm for time spent on good works.
Jesus wants us to realize not all demands for our time are of equal value. Not all busy is glory. Our time on this earth is not for the world and its pull for our attention. We are not on this earth to gain status or feel important because we are needed by so many.
It is certainly true that God is decidedly against idleness (2 Thessalonians 3:11), and He placed us on this earth to work (Genesis 2:15). However, did God truly place us on this earth to participate in work, seven civic functions, two clubs, and encourage our children to sign up for three or more extra curriculars each? Are we really putting ourselves or our families in the best position to use the precious resource of time in the very best possible way for the Lord?
Paul puts it this way in Philippians 1:9-11,
“And this I pray, that your love may abound still more and more in knowledge and discernment, that you may approve the things that are excellent, that you may be sincere and without offense till the day of Christ, being filled with the fruits of righteousness which are by Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.”
Often when we say “yes” to demands which stretch our calendars thin, we think we’re loving our brethren. Paul encourages that love here, but he tells us to be discerning and come to understand the things that are excellent. In other words, there may be demands which do not meet the “best” standard, and when we accept those less than excellent demands we leave ourselves in a position to offend. Our attitudes change from one of love to one of stress and anxiety, and we’re soon projecting our attitudes on the quality of our work.
There is a time to say, “No.” A time when we have no time. A time when it is more loving to answer the request in the negative than provide them with insincere and half-baked efforts. Jesus told us in Matthew 5:37 to, “Let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes’ and your ‘No,’ ‘No.’” Jesus wants us to be sincere. Paul tells us the goal is to be “filled with the fruits of righteousness,” and that will involve our saying “yes.” However, if we don’t see a demand for our time as beneficial to righteous fruit, and our calendar is already stuffed, be sincere by saying, “No.”
At the conclusion of Paul’s statement in Philippians 1:11, he points to the purpose of our good works. Instead of trying to be “people-pleasers,” or “self-pleasers,” God is calling us to be “God-pleasers.” Our calendars should be filled with activities which praise God.
Consider just a few examples: God is praised when we remain employed and feed ourselves (2 Thessalonians 3:12). God is praised when we care for our parents who are no longer able to care for themselves (1 Timothy 5:4). God is praised when we make time to communicate with Him (Luke 18:1). God is praised when we share our livelihood with brethren (James 2:15-16).
To the congregation at Ephesus Paul wrote, “See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be unwise but understand what the will of the Lord is” (Ephesians 5:15-17). We are called to redeem our time. To use it in the very best way possible in order to serve the Lord. Are there demands on your time which drain your availability for the Lord? Are there activities taking up precious real estate in your calendar which could better be spent praising God? Learn to be more willing when circumstances necessitate to say, as Jesus said, “No.” Be sincere. Be filled with fruits of righteousness. Be discerning. Be a time redeemer. Be a better steward of the precious resource given to you by your loving Father.
“And whatever you do, in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him” (Colossians 3:17).