“You shall not steal” (Exodus 20:15). In other words, don’t take what is not your own. Let’s talk about time in this regard. Time is fixed. It inexorably moves ahead. You cannot box up a quantity of time and save it for later. Oh yes, you can reserve time to take a vacation. In doing so, you plan ahead. When the time comes, which it will, you take your vacation. When the allotted time expires, you return to work. The point is, you don’t control time; you control yourself. You don’t manage time; you manage yourself. Time management is self-management.
In your work at home, in school, in church, or your profession, you have a certain amount of time at your disposal to accomplish your tasks. When you work with others, you are under obligation to complete your assignments in the time allotted. Stepping aside, you allow others to complete their assignments in the time allotted to them. You should not take time away from them which is not yours. You shall not steal.
Quite a number of years ago, I was asked to do a short conference at a mission church. The pastor of the mother church was there and asked if he might say a few words to those assembled. His words turned out to be not a few. He consumed the entire time allotted for the meeting. I did not preach that evening as planned. You shall not steal.
In the position of a guest minister on another occasion, there were three other ministers on the program in the hour-long service. When I was introduced to the pulpit, it was ten minutes to the end of the hour. Debating what to do, I read the Scriptures, preached my sermon, introduced the closing psalm, and pronounced the benediction, one half-hour after the appointed time.
Not too much of a problem you may say. But we plan around announced service times. In this case, residents of a home for the elderly may have been deprived of a meal because of the insensitivity of the preacher. Perhaps the other ministers in this service overdid their parts and took time away from me. But I also took time away from congregants, time not my own. You shall not steal.
All of this applies to meetings, meetings which last too long and take time away from other people like family members. Yes, all manner of board meetings take too long and rob time from other areas of life. Think of the times you have been in school board meetings, teacher’s meetings, staff meetings, or church meetings that churn on and on because of a lack of good management. The answer is, therefore, more planning and self-management. You shall not steal.
Sure, I’m talking about common courtesy and common sense. But it’s deeper than this. It involves ethics. It involves God’s moral law. Early in my tenure as a seminary professor, a student preacher not only took his allotted twenty minutes in the chapel service, he extended his sermon for an additional twenty minutes. This took us well into the following class period. The student did not seem to grasp what he had done. “I don’t understand,” he said. “When I preached this sermon in church, it took an hour [sixty minutes] but I cut it back twenty minutes!”
Significantly enough, the topic of the sermon was ethics. However, our student failed to grasp that he robbed fellow students and professors of a significant amount of their class time. You shall not seal. Sadly, I too am guilty of robbing time. Are you?