Ephesians 5:16 “Redeeming the time, because the days are evil.”
Say you’re driving along in your car, and suddenly, you run out of gas. You’re out in the middle of nowhere, an old country road with nothing around for miles. But you’ve got cell phone coverage, so you call your wife or AAA or someone to come fill you up. They say they’ll get there in a couple of hours or so. Now you’ve got nothing to do but wait. Your day is ruined.
But you’ve got a good book with you. Now you realize that even though the day isn’t what it was supposed to be, you’ve got something productive to do with your time that will reap benefits down the road. The wasted time is salvaged- it’s not a complete loss. I think this is the sort of thing Paul is talking about in Ephesians 5:16.
Contrary to what some tell you, you are not going to have your best life now. This world does not work. It’s broken. Because of sin, your relationships, at their very best, are going to be only a pale shadow of what they ought to be. You will spend a great deal of your productive time simply sweeping back the bad effects of the curse rather than making any forward progress. Illness, conflict, poverty, disaster, death- If you look for your satisfaction in this life, you’re going to be extremely disappointed.
But Jesus tells us to lay up for ourselves treasures in heaven. Thanks to the gospel, we can “redeem the time”. We can start overcoming sin now. We can learn to be faithful with the little bit of responsibility that we have now, and Jesus tells us that he that is responsible with a little now will be put in charge of a great deal in the age to come. In this way, we can “redeem the time”.
Redeeming the time doesn’t mean fixing the broken nature of this age. This age isn’t going to be fixed. It’s going to be burned up with fire. But we shouldn’t just put on our hippie clothes and wait around for that to happen. We should be productively using the short time we have as best we can. We should be learning to be faithful in our relationships, faithful in our work, faithful as citizens, as spouses, as employers or employees, faithful with our own bodies. In all of these things, we learn to be truly human, to be what God made us to be, and we glorify Him who made us in the process. It may make some small difference in the quality of our life right now. But that’s not really the point. The laborer doesn’t labor in order to improve the quality of his workday; he labors for the paycheck at the end of the day. And by God’s grace we have a big paycheck coming one day. Let us labor with that in mind.
We don’t really know a lot about how the eternal age is going to work, or how our labors now translate into our state then. We do know it’s all of grace, that even God’s reward of our good works is of grace, and not of merit. He is, in fact, only crowning His grace with more grace, since the good works themselves were works of His grace. But we do know, with no doubt, that what we do now has eternal implications. So in the light of the gospel, in the light of His grace and mercy covering all our sins and failures, let us redeem the time, laboring not for the payoff we can get right now, simply seeking to minimize suffering or enjoy this life as much as we can, but being faithful as best as we can with what God has put in front of us, looking to eternity and God’s grace for the harvest of our labors.