I love that the allotted time of each day is one of the grand equalizers of us all. Whether you are a CEO of a multi-billion dollar company or a stay-at-home-parent or anything else, we all have 24 hours in a day. Think about it: time is the one commodity so precious that you can’t purchase more no matter how much money you have. It’s both precious and invaluable. And often we use similar language for time as we do our bank accounts. We spend time.
But what if we saw our time not as something we spend, but something we invest?
When you spend money, for example, it is gone and exchanged for some item. However, when we invest money, we intentionally and willingly give it for the sake of what it will become as the investment matures. Investing in stocks is a good example of this, because if you buy a share in a healthy and growing company, you are counting on the stock going up in price over time. It is about looking beyond the short-term. Is it possible to see our time, too, as an investment?
Investing our time is better than simply spending it. But do most people even consider the difference? Probably not. But like most things, where we are thoughtful and intentional, we are more likely to see alignment toward God’s direction for our lives. And Jesus modeled this, which the Gospel of John shows us in subtle, yet profound, ways.
After this, Jesus and his disciples went out into the Judean countryside, where he spent some time with them… (John 3:22, NIV)
John chooses a really interesting verb to convey the idea of “spending time,” using the Greek verb diatribō. As one Greek lexicon describes it, diatribō is “to remain or stay in a place, with the implication of some type of activity.” In other ordinary uses of the verb in ancient Greek, it referred to two things rubbing against each other. In essence, when Jesus spent time with people, he would “rub off” on them!
Jesus invested his time and his very self into his followers. And in return, they became more like him.
Christians became known as “Christians” (which literally means “little Christs”) because followers of Christ gradually became like him over time and through their intentional time with Jesus! The very title “Christian” assumes that Christ has multiplied the presence of his Spirit through all who call him Lord.
We referenced John 3:22, and earlier in that same chapter is Jesus’s famous encounter with Nicodemus, the well-known teacher of Israel. Nicodemus was curious about Jesus, but he didn’t want to put his social status in jeopardy since he was one of the key religious leaders. So what did he do? Nicodemus met Jesus by night (John 3:2). Listening in to their conversation, it is clear Nicodemus does not truly understand who he is speaking to and even what the message of the kingdom means. Yet, there is such grace in the subtext of the passage. Jesus met Nicodemus exactly where he was, welcoming his questions and doubts. The old maxim is true: “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” And Jesus cared about Nicodemus and he invested in Nicodemus with the gift of time and understanding.
Jesus had a knack for taking routine moments and turning them into investments into people’s lives.
Jesus said to them, “Come have breakfast [with me].” (John 21:12)
Admittedly, the passage is not profound, but the context is. Jesus says this to his disciples after his resurrection! What did Jesus do during in his forty days before ascending to the throne of heaven? He showed himself to be the resurrected Lord, yes. He taught about the kingdom, indeed. But he also enjoyed the routine moments with his disciples, like breakfast! So, one way of being like Jesus is to not discount the routine moments.
Time is passing by every second, and we should not worry ourselves too much, obsessing over being productive with every millisecond, that would be exhausting! Instead, we should be challenged to be intentional, take inventory, and ensure the time we have is invested in what really matters.
We don’t have control over everything in life, but we do have accountability for our time. And so when we invest our time into people, we are bringing value to what has lasting significance. After all, the best of discipleship comes in the context of life-on-life, and along the way relationships.