Time is Short

As Christian Business Owners, we evaluate our businesses within predictable time periods: months, quarters and fiscal years. We compare and contrast performance from one period to the next. Our measurements are usually grounded in time, a concept that we take for granted.

How the writers of the Bible view time and how we view time are the same – and yet vastly different because of the context into which they place time itself. When you take a long step back and look at key passages in the Bible, you’ll find that our current concepts and experiences of time are accepted as is, but interpreted in light of an eternity with or without God. In this post, I’ll argue that:

  1. Time, as we know it, has not always existed
  2. Time, as we live in it now, is passing
  3. The Bible’s view of time gives us Christian Business Owners a strong reason to engage in activities that are not considered normal by American business standards

When Did Time Start?

If everything that exists was created by God in Genesis 1, then time was also created by God. Most assume that time has always existed or that it was present from the beginning, which most assume to be Genesis 1.1:

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters. And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. God saw that the light was good, and he separated the light from the darkness. God called the light “day,” and the darkness he called “night.” And there was evening, and there was morning—the first day.

Most believe time was present in Genesis 1.1 or at the very least, was inherent in the work God did in Genesis 1.4. I’d like to suggest that time – as we know it today – didn’t commence until Genesis 1.14-19:

And God said, “Let there be lights in the vault of the sky to separate the day from the night, and let them serve as signs to mark sacred times, and days and years, 15 and let them be lights in the vault of the sky to give light on the earth.” And it was so. 16 God made two great lights—the greater light to govern the day and the lesser light to govern the night. He also made the stars. 17 God set them in the vault of the sky to give light on the earth, 18 to govern the day and the night, and to separate light from darkness. And God saw that it was good. 19 And there was evening, and there was morning—the fourth day.

Why is this important? Well, because the interpretations of an old earth of millions or billions of years just might be true when measured using our current concepts of time. We already know that applying current time measurements to eternity leaves us with the comparison that a thousand years is like a day (1 Peter 2.8-9)

But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.

We don’t know how long the Spirit was hovering over the surface of the deep or how long God let the raw matter he had created exist when measured by our current concepts of time. But what we can realistically say is that days 1-3 in Genesis 1 were before time and days 4-6 were within our current time dispensation. I know my Bible scholars will rebut this by saying I can’t use the word “day” in two different ways in the same passage. My response: Really? You mean to tell me that you have never used the same word in two different ways in the same context? Knowing that the Hebrew word yom can mean either a literal 24-hour day or an undefined period of time – the word itself leaves us with plausibility on saying that we have an old earth, but we have a young experience of time as we know it.

When Will Time End?

We’re not told this in the Bible. Most assume it will end when then new heaven and new earth are created. I don’t have a dog in this race because the Bible doesn’t explicitly say that time will end. It is indicated that it will end with verses like Revelation 22.3, where the time for curses will be over, but one can’t say that verses like that mean that it is certain time will end. But this is not a huge point in Scripture and shouldn’t be one that consumes too much of our attention.

How Does the Bible View Time Right Now and Why Does it Matter?

The key passage I want to focus on is 1 Corinthians 7.29-31:

What I mean, brothers and sisters, is that the time is short. From now on those who have wives should live as if they do not; 30 those who mourn, as if they did not; those who are happy, as if they were not; those who buy something, as if it were not theirs to keep; 31 those who use the things of the world, as if not engrossed in them. For this world in its present form is passing away.

The obvious comparisons that Paul is making are not to be taken literally – instead – they are written to illustrate (in a bit of an absurd way) his opening and closing “bookend” statements: “…time is short…….this world in its present form is passing away.” Paul is making the point that everything – everything – is temporal and should be interpreted in light of eternity.

Our entire system of business – our country – our world systems – our profits – our businesses – our relationships – everything is temporal. Focusing on that which will carry forward into eternity should be characteristic of our lives as disciples of Jesus Christ. For the Christian, eternity has already started while we live on this earth, but it is not fully realized or experienced until we pass and go to heaven.

Interpreting our current events in light of eternity leads to passages like 2 Corinthians 4:16-18:

Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. 17 For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. 18 So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.

Whatever trials we’re facing are “light and momentary” says Paul. I’m not trying to be glib or minimize the pain that millions live with around the world. But in the context of eternity, they are momentary and they are light when compared to the affliction facing those who reject Jesus Christ as their Savior and Lord.

Re-interpreting the present in light of the future is common practice in business. But reinterpreting the present in light of eternity is unheard of. But I am suggesting that we, as Christian Business Owners, do just that.

What Does This Mean for the Christian Business Owner

I believe that interpreting the present in light of eternity leads to two things:

  1. When the Bible says “the time is now!”, the Bible isn’t kidding. If you’ve not accepted Christ as your Savior and Lord, the day will come when those opportunities will no longer present themselves, so please answer God’s call while you can
  2. We are freed up to not accept this world’s assumptions and definitions of success. When we postulate that there are four core purposes of business and that fulfilling those purposes are the pinnacle of success for a Christian Business Owner, we’re not kidding. Those four purposes – products, passions, profits and philanthropy – cannot be fulfilled in tandem without an eternal perspective on our present trials. To make the kind of decisions required to fulfill these purposes will depend on an eternal perspective of money, people and work. These perspectives don’t exist in most MBA programs – including those at prestigious Christian institutions. So don’t go looking for them in current literature or education classes – you won’t find them. Instead, look for them in the Bible and then take your cues from the Holy Spirit.
  3. We are freed up to give to others in abundant generosity. Hanging onto the things of this world – even while we live in this world – need not be characteristic of us as Christian Business Owners because we know that our wealth, our businesses and our very lives will one day pass and we’ll be with the Lord in heaven for eternity.

Time is short. Everyone knows this. For the Christian Business Owner, this isn’t a problem because there is a glorious eternity that awaits us. The present is passing away, the future eternity is what we live for now.

Bill English
CEO, Mindsharp
Associate, The Platinum Group