Redeeming the Time: A Closer Look

If your pastor preaches a sermon on time stewardship, there’s one scripture passage you can pretty much guarantee is going to get mentioned: Ephesians 5:15-16. In fact, a phrase from that passage, redeeming the time, is a church buzz-phrase that’s mentioned probably more than the term time stewardship itself.

And for good reason!

Ephesians 5:15-16 (KJV)
15See then that ye walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise,
 16Redeeming the time, because the days are evil.”

We see the same phrase in Colossians.

Colossians 4:5 (KJV)
Walk in wisdom toward them that are without, redeeming the time.

 

What Does Redeeming the Time Mean?

To me, this is one of those strange wordings that makes my eyes get a little wider and my thinking a little fuzzier. What in the world does redeeming the time mean?

For perspective, let’s examine some other translations:

Ephesians 5:15-16 (NASB)
15Therefore be careful how you walk, not as unwise men but as wise,
16making the most of your time, because the days are evil.

Ephesians 5:15-16 (NIV)
15 Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, 16 making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil.

I think that other translations lose some of the interesting “flavor” of the King James Version (redeeming the time just sounds so much cooler than making the most of every opportunity), but they certainly phrase this passage in a much more understandable way. Redeeming the time can be seen as making the most of your time.

Why the Word Redeem?

Why does the KJV use the word redeem?

The Greek word used here is exagorazo – which in turn comes from two Greek words, ek (meaning from or from out of) and agorazo (meaning to purchase). Exagorazo appears four times in the Bible. We’ve already looked at two of those in Ephesians 5:16 and Colossians 4:5. The other two are Galatians 3:13 (“Christ redeemed us from the curse of the Law”) and Galatians 4:5 (“so that He might redeem those who were under the Law”).

Exagarazo is a marketplace term. When you redeem someone from slavery, as Christ redeemed us, you are purchasing them – purchasing them out of (exagarazo) their slavery. You are paying the price to take them out of a bad situation.

The Concept of Kairos

What is it that is being redeemed in Ephesians 5:16 and Colossians 4:5?

The Greek word is kairos, which means time. But not just any idea of time: Kairos isn’t about minutes and seconds and wristwatches and sundials. It’s not about the flow of time or a specific measurement of time.

Instead, kairos carries with it the idea of the right time – the idea of a pre-determined time or an opportune time. “How much time before lunch?” would not use the word kairos. “Is it time to have lunch?” would. One is speaking of time in minutes and seconds, where the other is speaking of a point in time.

Furthermore, kairos doesn’t have to be an instant. It could be a short window of time, like time to take a break. Or it could be a longer window of time, as in harvest time.

And in those examples, the kairos is the time where you better get moving. Those crops aren’t going to harvest themselves. It is the appointed time, the proper time, the slice of time where you have an opportunity – but that kairos is going to eventually slip away.

Redeeming the time, to exagarazo the kairos, you are purchasing out of slavery the fleeting opportunities that you are presented with. In other words, you “make the most of every opportunity” or “make the most of your time” as the NASB and NIV translations state.

Enslaved

But yet, in my mind, one question remains. Why the word redeem? Why not the word utilize or seize or work when referring to kairos? Why this imagery of purchasing from slavery?

I believe the answer to this is found in the very next phrase from Paul: “Redeeming the time, because the days are evil.” Look at the important word because in this passage. Yes, we are to redeem the time – but we do so because the days are evil. The fact that the days are evil, Paul says, should lead us to be redeeming the time.

When Paul looked around at the world, he saw that he was living – like we are today – in evil times. Impurity, greed, idolatry, and disgusting sins of all types surrounded Paul, and they surround us.

So pervasive is the evil of these days that our opportunities to do good (our kairos) will slip away and be consumed by darkness unless we act. It’s as if we have to rescue and redeem these opportunities from the clutches of an evil world.

Picture a tug-of-war where opportunity (kairos) is in the middle, and we’re pulling one way while the evil days are pulling the other way. That’s not what’s happening here. Opportunity is not in the middle. Opportunity is not in neutral ground – it’s in hostile territory.

Because the days are evil, the opportunities we have to do good and to bring glory to God are already on auto-pilot on a course to be swallowed up by busyness and our worldly mindsets.

Because the days are evil, if we just “go with the flow” of our culture, we will lead wasted lives.

Because the days are evil, our sin nature is the default owner and decision-maker concerning these precious windows of time we have to make a difference on this earth.

Redeemed!

The good news is that Christ gives us ample resources to rescue these opportunities from slavery. Through Him we see these opportunities, and through Him we act on them. The evil days don’t stand a chance with Him working through us.

Through Him, redeeming the time is possible.

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  • http://danielsparks.com Daniel Sparks

    Thanks for your thought-provoking comments on this passage. We must do the things that prove us to be good stewards of the resources placed in our charge. We must take advantage of every opportunity to do good in the sight of God.

    • Loren Pinilis

      I hope it was an inspiration to you, Daniel.

  • http://www.onerefuge.com Ric Bender

    Loren,

    Wonderful article. I am glad we could connect on twitter. Keep up the needful work of encouraging people to use every moment God allows us to live wisely and effectively for the Masters sake.

    • Loren Pinilis

      Thanks Ric! I’ve enjoyed what I’ve read on onerefuge.com and I look forward to reading more.

  • Beth

    Great article! Thanks so much!

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  • collins onyeka

    Thanks for this great insight to the opportunity we have. I am particularily touch, please keep it up

    • http://www.lifeofasteward.com Loren Pinilis

      Thanks, Collins! Glad it could be a blessing.

  • Mitzi Archer-Winbush

    This message was awesome and gave me tremendous revelation.

    Thank you for being obedient to God’s call
    God bless you

  • cde blacks

    that is incredible, motivating

    • http://www.lifeofasteward.com Loren Pinilis

      Thanks!

  • lisa

    Blessed insight. Just what I was looking for. I will, in the power of the Holy Spirit actively redeem the time.

    • http://www.lifeofasteward.com Loren Pinilis

      So glad it could be helpful!

  • Sandy

    Hi, this scripture has been in my spirit for a while now. So to day I though I would goggle it to find it’s meanig. I was already feeling as if my time was being wasted. I truely wanted the to place more value on being able to redeem the lose with the time that is at hand . I am going to look into the resources and opportunities as you mentioned.
    Thank so much to taking the time to post on the verse.

    • http://www.lifeofasteward.com Loren Pinilis

      Sandy, I’m humbled that it was helpful.
      Thanks!

  • Stephanie

    This was deep. I never connected necessarily what evil days had to do with redeeming the time so definitely had an ah – ha moment

    • http://www.lifeofasteward.com Loren Pinilis

      Glad to hear it! It was an a-ha moment for me too!

  • jorge a

    wow very empowering message… God bless you

    • http://www.lifeofasteward.com Loren Pinilis

      Thanks. Glad it was helpful.

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  • mark todd

    My God that bit of information was timely for me. I needed that

  • felix

    will I be correct if I say this scripture urges Christians not to waste time, but to use it wisely. Especially in doing things that bring glory to God and that edify us. Apart from the fact we have to sleep and go to work. Felix

    • http://www.lifeofasteward.com Loren Pinilis

      That’s a great way of putting it – this scripture urges us to use time wisely.

  • Paul Martinez

    The kairos moment as I see it are not times initiated by us but times which are inspired by the Spirit of God for us. Thus we must walk wisely and not as mere men (or women) because the days are evil. And we who have been given the ministry of reconciliation by the hope of glory which resides in us must pray for those whom God has given us. Now we have been given the word of reconciliation to be given at the proper time, the kairos moment.

  • Gilbert Estridge

    Thanks, this article helped me greatly. I will give credit where it is due.