On day four in his works of creation, God creates the sun, moon, and stars (Gen. 1:14–19). These “lights” in the heavens are specifically said to “separate” day and night, to “rule” the light and darkness, and to be for “signs and for seasons.” As we are considering a biblical worldview of work in the works of God, there are further important lessons we draw from our Creator here.
We have already discussed God’s works of separating, classifying, and naming—or, “taxonomy.” We have also discussed assessment and progress. Here we see God expand those ideas, applying similar principles in the area of time. Together these features provide an environment in which God’s creatures—man in particular—can keep track of time. This has many implications.
The Stewardship of Time
God placed these lights for the purpose of separating the light from the darkness. Given that he has already called “the darkness” night and “the light” day, those phrases mean the same thing here. They are speaking of definite, marked periods of time. The separations here, then, refer to separations or division of time specifically.
These periods of time come in two varieties, we might say: common and special. These two categories are in the text. “Days and years” designate the common variety. These come with mundane regularity: every 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 12 months or 365 days a year. By these we regulate our normal patterns of work and rest. “Signs and seasons” designate what we may call “special” time indicators. These come less frequently and are usually marked by special considerations of the larger, more monumental changes in our life and environment: “Summer and winter, and springtime and harvest,” as the hymn says. With these come special celebrations, which may vary by culture, but generally mark the same features: planting, harvest, death, life. All of these point to continued hope in our life as God’s people living in his providence. These periodically remind us of meaning and purpose amidst the mundane, day-to-day life.
For these reasons, the lights are said also to “rule.” They are markers which indicate the regular intervals of time. Regarding the quantification of the passage of time, the rotation of the earth around the sun and the rotation of the earth on its axis in relation to the sun provide an objective and definitive basis. They are regular, predictable, and perpetual. It’s tempting to say you could almost set your watch by them. They are, in fact, laws which rule our very existence.
Just as we discerned the laws of logic in creation before, here we can see the same principles at work. In God’s creation, you have both the one and the many of logic and mathematics: you have a unified continuum of time with built-in means for marking discreet, diverse units. These units can be infinite in both their number and diversity, but they also boil down to the simplest of distinctions: light and dark, yes and no. These are the fundamental units of human thought, communication, and reasoning. As I’ve written elsewhere:
The objective, “yes” and “no” character of truth lies at the root of God’s creation and man’s thinking. This primitive objectivity appears in the most fundamental accounting device in the created world—a computer. At its most fundamental level, a computer chip simply interprets a series of ones and zeros—a digital version of “yes” and “no,” “positive” and “negative.” This binary (allowing only two answers) language (processed at billions of affirmatives or negatives per second) can code and process everything you see happening on your computer screen. In this system, there is no “maybe,” “possibly,” “probably,” or the like. When it comes down to it, therefore, everything from games and graphics to the most complex mathematics and engineering boils down to a series of answers to yes or no questions. (And one improper answer can lock up the entire system!) Of course, computers do not make a perfect analogy to the human mind, and certainly not to human experience in total, but the fact that the fundamental level of data processing equates to simple honesty shows us that at its root level, creation functions according to an objective order that is both very simple and inescapable. (Biblical Logic, 2nd Ed., 23.)
This is why computers are such phenomenally helpful and life-changing devices. They do some of our most basic work for us at phenomenal speed and efficiency. We can build computer on top of computer in various ways, at very low cost, and transfer billions of answers across space and time in seconds. We can build complex systems out of simple ones and compound this productivity and efficiency.
Simply put, the discreet marking and tracking of time is a crucial aspect of our lives—a demand we should say. Time is our only non-renewable resource. Once it passes, you cannot get it back. You cannot produce more. It cannot be recycled. Moreover, you will use it. This is inescapable. The big question is how you will use it. God gave us such prominent and dramatic rulers of time—the sun, moon, and stars—in part to impress upon us constantly that our time spent here is a stewardship for One much greater. We are responsible to him, and he has given us provision to be productive.
With these features in place, we can understand the practical implications of God’s provisions on day four to lead us directly into all aspects of time management. This includes scheduling, planning, tracking, and more.
These features imply that both short-term and long-term time markers have crucial meaning and purpose. Time management demands discipline both to plan and to execute for both short and long term. One must take the time to think through the project, separate it into smaller tasks, create a sequence, schedule each part, and then also have the discipline to perform each part and stick with the schedule until the project is completed. This is true whether we are building a skyscraper, launching a space shuttle, or tackling overwhelming mounds of laundry.
One key to any larger project is to break down it down into manageable discreet quantities, and then perform each smaller task in sequence. Mark the completion of each smaller task as progress toward the larger goal. Mark progress with regular daily rest, and mark the completion of larger projects with celebration appropriate to the accomplishment.
Finally, the use we make, or do not make, over time will naturally compound. All time is God’s time, and this means our stewardship of time is not neutral. Further, since it cannot be renewed or recycled, our use of it is both moral and inescapable. This is the ultimate exposure of non-neutrality in one’s life. You are either being productive for God or you are not, and you cannot change that once it is done. What you have done can be forgiven and the future course set aright, but it cannot be changed. From the present moment, either productivity or sloth will compound. We will discuss compounding more later, but for now it is enough to acknowledge it. The more we invest in godly productivity over time, the more it pays off. The more we invest in sloth, laziness, sloppiness, or slack, the more it will consume us over time.
A little sleep, a little slumber,
a little folding of the hands to rest,
and poverty will come upon you like a robber,
and want like an armed man
(Prov. 6:10–11; 24:33–34).