I recently witnessed an interaction that led me to conclude that the worst offense a person can commit in our day and age is wasting another person’s time. The person who felt his and other people’s time had been wasted was unkind (to severely understate it) and shaming to the perceived offender. The strength of the reaction struck me, and underlined the importance of time as a valued commodity.
Time is money after all. More properly stated, time is productivity and our culture measures human worth by production and consumption. We don’t waste time so much as we spend it. When people ask me how I’m doing, it feels really important and valuable to say, “I’m really busy.” What better thing to tell another person to underscore your importance? I’ll admit that when someone prefaces a request of me with the phrase, “I know that you’re really busy,” that part of me feels honored and noticed as a person of importance.
My friend, Randy Harris, says that if you’re too busy, God didn’t get you there. Randy’s accusing comment (the way I take it, not the way he says it) reveals the spiritual threat that underlies the story of productivity around which we attach value to our lives. When we fall into this false, idolatrous story, we are essentially saying that the world depends on my productivity and not God’s.
This is one reason for Sabbath, to remind ourselves that the world doesn’t require my effort or productivity and that human worth is not measured by production or consumption but by bearing the image of God.
So, here’s what I think. I think the thing that love demands of Christians is time–time for the other. Which is the worse sin, to waste someone’s time or to treat someone poorly? Who’s is a person’s neighbor, the one who is too busy to be bothered or the one who is interruptible? (Is time management this culture’s purity code?)
I think the key to this is simplicity. The more simple our lives, the less is required in terms of productivity to support them. The more simple our lives, the less likely we are to be captured by consumption–by cable, wifi, smartphone, entertainment on demand. And when the fruit of simplicity reduces the demand of both productivity and consumption, we possess more of what love demands–time for the other.