Economics 101 & Public Square

How Americans Spend Their Time and What It Means for Whole-Life Stewardship

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The Bureau of Labor Statistics released its American Time Use Survey on Wednesday. It’s fascinating to read through how people spend their time. In a sense, the survey provides a snapshot of how people are living (or not living) out God’s command to be fruitful and multiply and develop the world.

Joe Carter, a senior editor with The Gospel Coalition, has a good summary of the survey, and as I read through his piece I was struck once again by the connection between whole-life Christian stewardship and how we spend our time.

The Cultural Mandate: The Call to Whole-Life Stewardship

Stewardship was born in the Garden, before the fall of man. God presents us with the call to stewardship in Genesis 1:28 when he tells us to multiply and fill the earth. This call to stewardship is known as the cultural mandate.

God’s work – the Garden of Eden – was perfect but unfinished. He created Adam and Eve to cultivate the Garden and care for it. Likewise, we are each created with a purpose and a unique set of skills to cultivate the world we’ve been born into. We’re still called, as Adam was, to be fruitful and multiply, through building families, community, and culture.

The implications of being fruitful and productive are massive. Building culture and developing the world encompass many things, including but not limited to:

  • Having and raising families.
  • Engaging in communities.
  • Raising churches and cities.
  • Engaging in commerce and trade.

Being faithful in pursuing these endeavors requires a biblical understanding of stewardship.

Whole-Life Stewardship

Answering the call to be fruitful and multiply requires an investment of our time and resources. This is where stewardship comes in.

Stewardship is not just about whether we tithe, how we manage our finances, or how we preserve fossil fuels. These are important aspects of stewardship, but a comprehensive, whole-life stewardship is so much more.

Whole-life stewardship refers to all of our decision-making, especially how we spend our time and talents. It concerns every decision a person makes, and it requires intentionality and effectiveness.

Stewardship requires these things especially when it comes to how we spend our time.

Time Is Ticking Away

Time is the most precious of our scarce resources. We only have twenty-four hours in one day, so how will we spend it in order to answer the call God has placed upon our lives?

  • We will have to draw boundaries on our commitments.
  • We will have to consider the trade-offs we make when regarding competing commitments on our schedules.

We don’t have the luxury of wasting our most scarce and precious resource.

This means we need to learn how to get the right things done, as IFWE contributor Matt Perman puts it in his latest book (and he’s got some helpful tips on how to do this, too).

Embracing whole-life stewardship helps us count the costs and be better decision-makers. It also allows us to serve others and brings great joy in the process. As you check out  how Americans are spending their time, join me in prayerfully considering how we can be whole-life stewards of our most precious resource.

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