“Owe nothing to anyone except to love one another; for he who loves (agape) his neighbor has fulfilled the law. 9 For this, “You shall not commit adultery, You shall not murder, You shall not steal, You shall not covet,” and if there is any other commandment, it is summed up in this saying, “You shall love (Agape) your neighbor as yourself.” 10 Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfillment of the law. 11 Do this, knowing the time (Gr. kairos – a God-appointed opportunity), that it is already the hour (“it is high time” – KJV) for you to awaken from sleep; for now salvation (standing before the judgment seat of Christ) is nearer to us than when we believed. 12 The night is almost gone, and the day is near. Therefore let us lay aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light. 13 Let us behave properly as in the day, not in carousing and drunkenness, not in sexual promiscuity and sensuality, not in strife and jealousy. 14 But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh in regard to its lusts.” (Romans 13:8-14)
“If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
And—which is more—you’ll be a Man, my son!”
IF by Rudyard Kipling
“Notice how we are perpetually surprised at Time. (“How time flies! Fancy John being grown-up & married! I can hardly believe it!”) In heaven’s name, why? Unless, indeed, there is something in us which is not temporal.” C. S. Lewis “There is an appointed time for everything. And there is a time for every event under heaven… He (God) has also set eternity in their heart.” (Ecclesiastes 3:1, 11) “Lord, make me to know my end and what is the extent of my days; Let me know how transient I am.5 “Behold, You have made my days as handbreadths, and my lifetime as nothing in Your sight.” (Psalm 39:4-5)
I want to make a brief comment on the first part of verse 8a and then focus the remainder of my comments on 8b-14 regarding God’s perspective on our use of time. “Owe nothing to anyone” – refers to taxes owed to our government along with the honor and respect due to those God has placed in authority over us. (See Romans 13:1-7) This verse does not prohibit borrowing (Ps. 37:21; Matt. 5:42) but it does mean we pay what is due on time, whether it be taxes or debts to banks, etc. Overall Scripture warns us about too much debt. “The rich ruleth over the poor, and the borrower is servant to the lender.” (Proverbs 22:7) And it warns us not to presume on the future (i.e., that we will make a profit and be able to pay off our loan). (James 4:13-17) There are also warnings for the lender to not charge exorbitant interest as well. ”He who increases his wealth by exorbitant interest amasses it for another, who will be kind to the poor.” (Prov. 28:8)
The context of Romans 13:8-14 is our response to God’s love and mercy for us as seen in Romans 1-11 and stated in Romans 12:1-2: “Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. 2 And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.” “Owe nothing to anyone except to love one another; for he who loves his neighbor has fulfilled the law.” The remainder of this chapter emphasizes God’s highest purpose for our lives in our relationships with one another. It is a summary of a portion of the Ten Commandments related to our love for mankind and the second part of the Great Commandment, to love our neighbor as ourselves. It contrasts love for others with sinful acts and attitudes (drunkenness, sexual sins, strife and jealousy, etc.) which are not only hurtful (unloving) but spiritually and eternally a waste of our time. Like Moses and David (in Psalms 90 and 39) Paul tries to help us grasp the brevity of this life so we will use our time wisely. The phrase “for now salvation” means standing before the Lord at the judgment seat of Christ and our need for this to be our daily focus. Paul lived each day for “That Day” and calls us to do likewise. This is addressed to believers only (the unsaved are spiritually dead, not asleep) and Paul exhorts us to wake up (spiritually) and not waste our lives (our time) in sin and spiritual sloth. With all this in mind let us look at what Scripture says about time.
1. Time can be measured – In Genesis 1 we see days, mornings and evenings and seasons measured by the movement of the sun and moon. In Isaiah 38 we see the sun dial used for measurement of time. Later in history we see the use of the hour glass and other means of measuring time. Today we use a Rolex, Timex, etc., depending on your budget. J
2. Time can be wasted – “For the time already past is sufficient for you to have carried out the desire of the Gentile (unsaved people), having pursued a course of sensuality, lusts, drunkenness, carousing, drinking parties and abominable idolatries.” (1 Peter 4:3) Peter is warning us not to waste any more of our time. Time can be converted to gold, silver, or precious stones and have eternal value, or wood, hay or straw and be wasted on this brief life. (1 Corinthians 3:10-15)
3. Time can be redeemed – “And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather expose them. 12 For it is shameful even to speak of those things which are done by them in secret. 13 But all things that are exposed are made manifest by the light, for whatever makes manifest is light. 14 Therefore He says:
“Awake, you who sleep,
Arise from the dead,
And Christ will give you light.”
15 See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise, 16 redeeming the time, because the days are evil.17 Therefore do not be unwise, but understand what the will of the Lord is.” (Eph. 5:11-17) “By faith Moses, when he had grown up, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, 25 choosing rather to endure ill-treatment with the people of God than to enjoy the passing pleasures of sin, 26 considering the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures of Egypt; for he was looking to the (eternal) reward (in heaven).” (Hebrews 11:24-26) It is like we can buy back the time that the world, the devil, and the flesh would have us use on sin and self and invest it in others for their and our spiritual and eternal good. Remember the days of green stamps. The stamps didn’t do you any good until you took them to the store and bought something in exchange for it. We can use (and thus redeem) our chronos (a Greek word used for measuring time) by using it for kairos (God-appointed opportunities). “So teach us to number our days, that we may present to You a heart of wisdom.” (Psalm 90:12) This means that each day we are not so bound to our agenda and our schedule that we, like the priest and the Levite on the road to Jericho, pass by people in need whom God calls us to minister to. And this obviously includes our family, friends, and business associates, whom we see regularly and yet we can overlook a God-appointed opportunity (kairos) because we are too busy with our agenda. Even Jesus’ disciples missed these opportunities and tried to persuade Jesus to pass people by. (Matthew 15:21-28) Yet Jesus never missed even one of these “kairos moments.” Remember, the secular (“of this world”) becomes spiritual when the focus of our heart is to please and honor God in whatever we do. (See1 Corinthians 10:31)
4. Time will run out – We all run out of time at death and unless we have exchanged the chronos for kairos its purpose and value is lost forever. “Prepare to meet thy God.” (Amos 4:12) For the unbeliever: “Behold, now is “the acceptable time,” behold, now is “the day of salvation.” (2 Corinthians 6:2) “It is appointed for men to die once and after this comes judgment.” (Hebrews 9:27) And for the believer: “Now after a long time the master of those slaves came and settled accounts with them. 20 The one who had received the five talents came up and brought five more talents, saying, ‘Master, you entrusted five talents to me. See, I have gained five more talents.’ 21 His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful slave. You were faithful with a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.’ (Matthew 25:19-21)
Revelation 6:10 says “that there should be time no longer.” [“That when this mystery of God (His consummation of human history) is finished time itself shall be no more, as being the measure of things that are in a mutable changing state; but all things shall be at length forever fixed, and so time itself swallowed up in eternity.” Henry, Matthew: Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible : Complete and Unabridged in One Volume. Peabody : Hendrickson, 1996, c1991, S. Re 10:1] Then we as God’s children will live happily ever after in the “forever and ever” promised by God. “Then he showed me a river of the water of life, clear as crystal, coming from the throne of God and of the Lamb, 2 in the middle of its street. On either side of the river was the tree of life, bearing twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit every month; and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. 3 There will no longer be any curse; and the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and His bond-servants will serve Him; 4 they will see His face, and His name will be on their foreheads. 5 And there will no longer be any night; and they will not have need of the light of a lamp nor the light of the sun, because the Lord God will illumine them; and they will reign forever and ever.” (Revelation 22:1-5) Yet the eternal doom of the lost is equally true: “Then He will also say to those on His left, ‘Depart from Me, accursed ones, into the eternal fire which has been prepared for the devil and his angels.” (Matthew 25:41)
We all struggle with time even as believers. We want to and know it is wise to use our time on earth to know and do God’s will. God tells us in the Great Commandment exactly what to do with our time, to love Him and others. This is a love of our will not emotions. God doesn’t command us to like one another. Agape love is to desire and pray for and be willingly to serve our neighbor (and enemy) for their highest spiritual and eternal good. There is only one way to do that so Paul closes this chapter telling us how to do it: “Put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh in regard to its lusts.” We can only defeat the flesh in and through Christ. Yet we cannot put on Jesus quickly like Clark Kent stepping into a phone booth and dressing into his superman outfit. We want to love God and people but we don’t take the time (chronos) to marinate in Jesus so when the opportunity comes (kairos) to love our neighbor we can either totally miss it or see it and selfishly resist it. And this happens in our homes not just with people on the “road to Jericho.”
There is no clearer example of this than we see in the account of Mary and Martha. Martha had her agenda (even a good agenda) to use her time (chronos) to prepare a meal for Jesus. And Mary used her chronos and exchanged it for kairos and Jesus commended her and rebuked Martha. Let’s look at this and hopefully learn from it. “Now as they were traveling along, He entered a village; and a woman named Martha welcomed Him into her home. 39 She had a sister called Mary, who was seated at the Lord’s feet, listening to His word. 40 But Martha was distracted with all her preparations; and she came up to Him and said, “Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to do all the serving alone? Then tell her to help me.” 41 But the Lord answered and said to her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and bothered about so many things; 42 but only one thing is necessary, for Mary has chosen the good part, which shall not be taken away from her.” (Luke 10:38-42) Jesus is telling us that it is necessary, that we NEED to regularly and unhurriedly sit at His feet (a picture of worship and dependence) and listen to His Word (hearing and being filled up with God’s love for us and responding to His great love in obedience to love and serve Him by loving and serving the ones He sends to us). The love debt is never fully paid by us toward others because the price Jesus paid for us and continues to pay for us through His ongoing forgiveness and faithful, passionate love, can never be fully repaid. But we should never stop trying to do so. So let’s “take time to love.
Questions for Discussion and Application
1. “If you can fill the unforgiving minute with sixty seconds’ worth of distance run” – What do you think Kipling means by this as it relates to our wise or unwise use of time?
2. “There is an appointed time for everything. And there is a time for every event under heaven… He (God) has also set eternity in their heart.” (Ecclesiastes 3:1, 11) “Lord, make me to know my end and what is the extent of my days; Let me know how transient I am.5 “Behold, You have made my days as handbreadths, and my lifetime as nothing in Your sight.” (Psalm 39:4-5) Would you say you have an eternal mindset as spoken of in Ecclesiastes? And would you say you have God’s perspective on the brevity of this life compared to eternity? Explain your answers.
3. Time can be measured (so it really doesn’t slip away), wasted or redeemed. If you had a large hour glass of your life, where would the bulk of the sand be? Do you think it would help you grasp the brevity of your life if you could see the sand literally running out?
4. How have you redeemed some of the time God has granted you? Where may you still waste too much time
5. “His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful slave. You were faithful with a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.’ (Matthew 25:19-21) Does your desire to hear Jesus say this to you motivate you daily to “take time to love”?
6. “Behold, now is “the acceptable time,” behold, now is “the day of salvation.” (2 Corinthians 6:2) How may sharing this verse help an unbeliever to receive Jesus today?
7. Revelation 6:10 says “that there should be time no longer.” [“That when this mystery of God (His consummation of human history) is finished time itself shall be no more, as being the measure of things that are in a mutable changing state; but all things shall be at length forever fixed, and so time itself swallowed up in eternity.” (Matthew Henry)] Does the thought of no longer being “time-bound” bring a sense of peace and joy to you
8. How did Jesus tell us to use our chronos time to make it kairos time through the account of Mary and Martha
9. “See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise, 16 redeeming the time, because the days are evil.17 Therefore do not be unwise, but understand what the will of the Lord is.” (Eph. 5:11-17) Do you feel the need to sit at Jesus’ feet and hear His Word so you can do this?