A “Gandalfian” Perspective on Time

By Mark D. Roberts

September 25, 2019

Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil.

Ephesians 5:15-16

Ephesians 5:15-16 reminds me of a profound scene in J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings. It comes very early in the book The Lord of the Rings, though somewhat later in the movie version. Gandalf, the wise wizard, is visiting the home of Frodo, the humble Hobbit who had been given a powerful, evil ring. After sharing with Frodo what he knows about the history of the ring, Gandalf observes that Sauron the Great, the Dark Lord, was growing in power and wanted the very ring entrusted to Frodo.

“I wish it need not have happened in my time,” says Frodo.

grayscale compass on top of a map“So do I,” says Gandalf, “and so do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.”

All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us. Wise words, “Gandalfian” words that might well have been spoken by the Apostle Paul. Words that were, no doubt, shaped by Tolkien’s own Christian faith.

According to Ephesians, we live in evil days. We find ourselves in a situation not unlike that of Frodo, Gandalf, and the other inhabitants of Middle-earth. We have not been given an evil ring of power, of course. We have been entrusted with the good news of the gospel. We have been called into a way of living that opposes the darkness of our world. When we say “Yes” to Jesus, we join his battle against the forces of evil.

Like Frodo, we may not like this. If we’re honest, we might also say, “I wish it need not have happened in my time.” But the truth is that we cannot choose to live in others times. We cannot skip immediately to the future when God reigns and all of creation is united under Christ. We must live in these evil days. We must accept the gift of time that is given to us.

But we have a choice about how to use this time. We can choose to walk worthy of the calling with which we have been called (Ephesians 4:1). We can choose, by God’s grace, to be careful how we life, to live wisely, and to redeem the time given to us (5:15-16). As we look at our lives and the world in which we live, “all we have to decide is what to do with the time given us.” Will we live according to the fallen ways of this world? Or will we set time free from the clutches of evil, using it for God’s purposes? Will we, like Frodo, heed the call given to us and live for the sake of redemption?

All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us. Well spoken, Gandalf.

Something to Think About:

What will you decide to do with the time that is given to you?

Something to Do:

Talk with a close friend or your small group about how you are spending your time. Are there ways you can encourage each other to live more wisely?


Gracious God, thank you for the gift of time. Help me, I pray, to decide to do good with the time you have given me. May I choose you and your ways each day. May I oppose evil wherever it is found, whether in my neighborhood, workplace, city, or society. Use me, Lord, for your kingdom purposes. Amen.

Explore more at the Theology of Work Project:
Jesus’ 10 Principles for Working – an Overview on Faith and Work (Video)

Mark D. Roberts

Senior Strategist

Dr. Mark D. Roberts is a Senior Strategist for Fuller’s Max De Pree Center for Leadership, where he focuses on the spiritual development and thriving of leaders. He is the principal writer of the daily devotional, Life for Leaders,...

More on Mark

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Learn Learn Learn Learn

the Life for Leaders newsletter

Learn Learn Learn Learn