I have been sharing answers to life questions asked by my kids.
The next question is: What is your best advice when it comes to work?
What would you say?
My reply was: If you’re on time you’re late.
Let’s start with an illustration.
When Dad and I would take turns plowing a field and I was to relieve him at 3:00, I knew to arrive before 3:00. The reason? It may take 12 minutes for him to complete a round. We couldn’t switch off mid-round. Dad did not want to stop the plow at the end and wait. So if I did not come early, he might be held up, and he was a busy man.
So, if I was on time, I was late.
This maxim provides simple advice. Like all, it has its boundaries of application, but when understood it teaches much about life.
First, it teaches esteeming time. We are only allotted so much of it, so we must be good stewards. “So teach us to number our days,” Moses writes, “that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom.” (Ps. 90:12) I am amazed at how much can be accomplished in a day when a person values his minutes. One time somebody left John Wesley waiting, and he bemoaned, “I have lost ten minutes forever.”
Second, it teaches respect for others. If choir practice starts at 2:00, and a choir member doesn’t enter the room until 2:00 or later, then walks to get his music, then brushes down the row to find his place, then makes his casual comments, etc., he dismisses the time and interests of the director and others who had been ready to go.
Third, on a related note, it teaches self-discipline. A person shouldn’t need to wait for someone else to remind him of when he should be where and what needs to be done to succeed. The ant does what needs to be done at the proper time though she has no guide, overseer, or ruler (Prov. 6:7). God says we are to learn from this ant.
Fourth, this approach takes into consideration the flawed nature of the world. It is not wise to plan the fulfilling of obligations in such a manner that everything has to go just right for the timetable to work. Things go wrong. The car may need attention; traffic may not cooperate; you may spill something; someone may call …. Beware presuming a set of conditions in this world, for “ye know not what shall be on the morrow.” (James 4:14)
Fifth, being proactive on commitments represents a great approach to life generally. We are counseled, “Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might; for there is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom, in the grave, whither thou goest.” (Ecc. 9:10) Get out there early, labor zealously, and rest honorably when the day is over.
Sixth, faithful early attendance can be an evidence of a pattern indicating one’s work has been committed to God. Our charge is to be not slothful in business, but fervent in spirit, serving the Lord (Rom. 12:11). When Jesus met with His Father, He went early, in the morning, rising up a great while before day (Mark 1:35).
So, how one manages time is a testimony. Some people can be counted on not only to show up but to show up ready to go before the deadline. Doing so may indicate a philosophy, nay, a theology of life. They have learned enough of life to allow for interruptions and imperfections and still succeed, to be attentive and honoring to the needs of others, to be zealous in all their undertakings, and to be good stewards of the brief measure of time allotted to all souls on earth.