Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. (Ephesians 5:15-17 ESV)
Many modern translations render Ephesians 5:16 as “making the best use of time,” although the King James translates it as “redeeming the time.” The word literally means to buy out of the market place, looking for the best deal.
It reminds me of our friend Kelly Marshall, who sometimes takes my wife garage saling (if that’s a word). And let me tell you Kelly is a serious garage saler (pretty sure that’s not a word). She even has an app on her smart phone that shows her were the sales are, and she knows recognize and find a bargain‑hitting a couple of dozen of them before 10:00 in the morning.
As a veteran missionary with four kids, she honed these skills and found the clothes they needed. And now she can furnish their new condo, conserving their resources for other things.
This is how Paul is saying we should think about time—looking for the very best way to use it. Which brings us to the word time. The Greek word here is karios, and it does not refer to a clock the way we usually think of time. There is another word for that, chronos, from which we get chronology.
Karios is different. We might think of it as opportunity. It means we make the best use of the opportunities God brings into our lives. It’s a theological laden word; in fact, in Greek mythology, it was associated with the youngest son of Zeus. He had a lock on the front of his head, so you could grab him while he was coming toward you, but was bald on the back of his head, so you couldn’t catch him once he went past you.
Opportunity is like that.
We can illustrate it from the origin of the English word opportunity, which comes from a Latin word that means “for port.” When a ship was waiting to come into the port, it had to seize the exact moment when the tide and wind where just right. If the captain missed that moment, the crew may have had to wait for hours or even days before they could do it again. They had missed their opportunity.
In America we like to say time is money. But I’m thinking that a biblical way to think about time is that time is God-given opportunity. The apostle says be alert and vigilant so you can redeem or make the best use of them. This, he says in verse 17, is the will of God.
He uses the word karios in this way in Galatians 6:10, where he says “while we have the opportunity (karios), let us do good to all men, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.”
We often claim we don’t have enough time. But perhaps our problem is that we are thinking of chronos and not karios? We focus on clock time, when we should focus on opportunity.
This brings a fresh and dynamic perspective to time; we can, and should be, alert to the thing God is doing, hoping to redeem it. It changes the way we think about interruptions, for example. Or even aggravations.
Is that child, coworker or clerk in front of us an opportunity that God intends us to redeem by encouraging, teaching, or blessing?
In a hectic world, perhaps our pace is not the problem.
Perhaps it is our perspective.