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Time is Money and Much More

In 1748, Benjamin Franklin wrote a letter to a young tradesman giving him advice for his business. Part of his advice was a charge to make wise use of time. He wrote,
Remember that time is money. He that can earn ten shillings a day by his labour, and goes abroad or sits idle one half of that day, though he spends but sixpence during his diversion or idleness, ought not to reckon that the only expense; he has really spent, or, rather, thrown away, five shillings besides.
These words were intended to make the young tradesman aware of the value of time by equating it to money. Whereas he may have thought nothing of wasting four or five hours, he would be appalled at the idea of throwing away half a day's wages. Franklin showed that these were one in the same. Therefore, if he valued his money, then he should have also valued his time.

The metaphor of "time is money” may have originated with Benjamin Franklin, but the substance of it can be found in the ancient writings of Scripture. For example, Solomon lamented in Ecclesiastes over the vanity of his time spent in labor, saying, "For what does a man get in all his labor and in his striving with which he labors under the sun? Because all his days his task is painful and grievous; even at night his mind does not rest. This too is vanity” (Eccl. 2:22-23). It troubled Solomon that a man traded his time in labor and grief for wealth that would become someone else's possession when he died (Eccl. 2:18-20). His words show that men exchange pieces of their lives in the form of time and labor for possessions which they cannot keep long. In this, we see the truth of Franklin's metaphor, but we also see that time and money are both assets that are fleeting.

This understanding of time and money can cause us to become troubled like Solomon, for we want our time to be worth more than money. Time is the substance of life, so if all we get for our lives is an amount of money and possessions, then we are left unsatisfied. For this reason, Proverbs 23:3-4 says,

Do not weary yourself to gain wealth, cease from your consideration of it. When you set your eyes on it, it is gone. For wealth certainly makes itself wings like an eagle that flies toward the heavens.

A man who spends all of his time in the pursuit of wealth has traded all of his life for something that he cannot keep. At death, he will be separated from his possessions, and the fruit of his time will be taken from him, leaving him nothing to show for his life. He will be like the rich fool in Christ's parable, who was told by God at his death, "You fool! This very night your soul is required of you; and now who will own what you have prepared?” (Luke 12:20). As the old saying goes, "You can't take it with you,” and, "He will take nothing from the fruit of his labor that he can carry in his hand” (Eccl. 5:15).

In Ecclesiastes 5:16, Solomon asked the rhetorical question, "What is the advantage to him who toils for the wind?” Of course, there is no advantage for those who toil for the wind when they do nothing but trade their time for money. However, time can be exchanged for things that are worth far more than money. In Matthew 6:19-20, Jesus said,

"Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal; for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

By no means did Jesus forbid us from working for the necessities of life, for His word mandates that we do so (2Thess. 3:10-12). Instead, Jesus instructed us to place a priority upon spiritual pursuits whereby we may obtain a lasting treasure in heaven. When we use our time for heavenly goals, time is much more than money. In this way, we can exchange our time for timeless treasures.

Therefore, let us trade fleeting time for things that are not subject to time. As it has been said, "He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.” Neither time nor money can be preserved, but spiritual life in Jesus Christ is eternal. In Christ, God has made it possible for us to trade our time on earth for "an inheritance which is imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away, reserved in heaven” (1Pet. 1:4). Accordingly, Paul has this advice for us in Ephesians 5:15-16 – "Therefore be careful how you walk, not as unwise men but as wise, making the most of your time, because the days are evil.” Shall we make unwise and evil use of our time by trading it for nothing but worldly possessions, or shall we wisely make the most of our time by serving the Lord? Our time on earth soon vanishes away like a vapor (Jas. 4:14), but we can exchange it for everlasting life. Nothing else could be a better trade.

Stacey E. Durham



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