Redeeming Time

By Mark D. Roberts

September 24, 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

In yesterday’s Life for Leaders devotion we investigated the meaning of the phrase in Ephesians 5:16, “the days are evil.” We saw that it’s not so much that literal spans of time are evil as that they are permeated by evil. The days in which we live are dominated by sin and the powers of darkness.

timelapse of people rushingBut according to Ephesians the days can be rescued from evil and turned to good. That’s the sense of verse 16. In our translation it reads, “making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil.” The Greek could be rendered more literally, “redeeming the time, because the days are evil.” In ancient Greek, the verb translated as “redeeming” (exagorazo) had a literal meaning of “buying.” This verb shows up in Galatians 3:13, “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us.” Then, in Galatians 4:5 it says that Christ was born under the law “to redeem those under the law.” Looking at Ephesians 5:16, we might say that we are to redeem the time by setting it free, by ransoming it from the clutches of evil.

Of course, we don’t rescue the days by literally paying some sort of ransom. Rather, when we examine carefully how we are living, when we use our time wisely rather than foolishly, then we are redeeming time from its diabolic prison. Ironically, Ephesians 5:16 speaks of redeeming or buying time where we would speak in our culture of spending it. We assume that time is something we possess and can spend. The Greek mind did not share our abundant self-esteem in this regard. But regardless of linguistic differences the thought is similar. To use our English idiom, if we spend our time well, not wasting it on trivia—not to mention outright sin—then time itself will be invested in good, rather than evil. From the Greek point of view, we can purchase time by using it well.

I wonder what would happen today if you and I thought about time in the way of Ephesians 5:16. The day before us is held captive by evil. But if we live thoughtfully, if we use well the opportunities given to us, then we can set a bit of time free today. We can ransom it from evil into the goodness of God’s kingdom. That’s something I’d like to try. How about you?

Something to Think About:

We think of spending time. Ephesians speaks of buying time. What difference does it make, if any, when we think of time as something to be bought rather than spent?

In what ways might you be able to redeem time today?

Something to Do:

As you think about your day (or tomorrow if you’re doing this devotion in the evening) consider how you might redeem a bit of time. Choose to do something good that you might not otherwise have done. It might be as simple as showing kindness to a colleague at work or helping a neighbor with a difficult task.


Gracious God, thank you for giving me the opportunity to redeem time today from the prison of evil. This is certainly a different way for me to think about the day before me. Help me to act wisely, to use well every opportunity, so that I might redeem this day from evil and claim it for your kingdom.

All praise be to you, God of time, God of history, God of all goodness. Amen.

Explore more at the Theology of Work Project online
Understanding Life in Christ (Galatians 1:6–4:31)

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,...

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