Why your time is not your own

Living in light of coram Deo

May 23, 2019

If your days or life are anything like mine, sometimes schedule demands can overtake every minute of your day. I wake anywhere between 4:30 a.m. and 5:15 a.m. and trying to go to bed between 9:30 p.m. and 10:00 p.m. In the life that God has given me, I am a husband, a father to three girls, an employee, a speaker, a teacher, a writer, a church member and lay-leader, a devoted running enthusiast, and friend. Add that to the myriad of additional responsibilities that I’m supposed to find time for, including reading, social media, and other personal hobbies.

I’m not laying out those details to make my schedule or life look any busier than others. In fact, in our hectic-paced American life, the default setting everybody runs on is “busy.” Just ask someone in the form of a polite greeting, “How are you?” and they’ll probably reply, “Great, just busy.”

Coram Deo and your time

Having just turned 34 years old, over the last few months I’ve become aware of something related to my own self-understanding of time management and schedule: Your time is not your own. Understanding this idea changes the defaults on what we should expect our lives to look like and how we are to live.

This principle came alive to me as I learned what coram Deo means. Coram Deo is the idea that every moment of our life is lived before God. In the vicissitudes and everyday sundries of life, we are to be keenly aware of every moment’s relationship to its creator, God. As Paul declares in Romans 14:7-8, “For none of us lives to himself, and none of us dies to himself. For if we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord. So then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord’s.” These verses encapsulate the idea of coram Deo. If you are reading this and inhaling and exhaling, that process is held together by an omnipotent God.

Our lives—every detail, every millisecond—are lived under the watchful canopy of God’s kind providence. Time belongs to God, and we humans are merely stewards of the time he allots to each of us. Every moment and every endeavor are to be taken captive for God’s glory (1 Cor. 10:31)

Avoiding idleness

Earlier in January, there was a week where every night was scheduled: Church activities, work travel, pre-marital counseling for a couple at church, a daughter’s school event. I remember feeling completely drained by the end of the week; like I could not catch up or manage every task and responsibility. I found myself thinking, “My time is mine, and it is wrong for outside forces to dictate my life like this.” Now, to be honest, weeks like that are not the norm.

We tell ourselves we want time for ourselves to foster meaning or to find solitude. What it probably means is that we want to put our minds on cruise control and binge Netflix. There’s a balance to be found in all of this. One cannot have every minute of every day booked solid, constantly. “Margin” has to be found for individuals to rest and engage in meaningful recreation. There’s a temptation to live in what William F. Buckley called “Overdrive” that can easily lead to burn-out.

I am not calling for overworking yourself; I’m suggesting that the life lived coram Deo will recognize that our time is not our own, and should be lived for the benefit of family, friend, and neighbor before it means seeking out luxury and the decadence of prolonged idleness. If we find ourselves growing bitter at the lack of free time we have, we should ask ourselves: Is this because I’m overbooked and over-xtended, or because I have a personal-time idol that makes any encroachment on it a moment for bitterness?

The principle that calls us to understand that time is not our own is to understand that the default setting for which God made us is not rest or idleness. God calls us to exercise dominion, cultivate the earth, and take responsibility for every sphere he has called us. We should find rest, margin, and the rhythms that help us maximize our efficiency, but let us not be deluded into thinking that maximizing our efficiency is to be pursued in order just to cease working, tilling, and cultivating.

A person glorifying God in each area of his life should expect to be busy and bone-tired at the end of the day. You might even expect to find your default expectation of your time being your own re-evaluated. I know mine has.

Andrew T. Walker

Andrew T. Walker is associate professor of Christian ethics and apologetics at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and director of the Carl F. H. Henry Institute for Evangelical Engagement. He is also a research fellow with the ERLC.  Read More by this Author