In the verse above, Paul is admonishing the Christians in Colossae, and us today, to focus on spiritual matters and seek the things of God. What I want you to ask yourselves today, brethren, is how you can be setting “your affections on things above” if you are habitually late to the services? Since we, too, are risen with Christ, we are obligated to seek– put diligent effort into–putting our affections on things above.
“What is so bad,” you may ask, “about consistently being a few minutes late to services?” “Does the Bible have anything to say about punctuality?” I believe I can show you that it does! To clarify matters, let me make it perfectly clear that I am not talking about one who is occasionally late or one whose good intentions to be on time are derailed by unforeseen circumstances. I am addressing the practice of arriving at services tardy more often than arriving on time.
Let’s examine this problem from a secular perspective. What happens to a child who is often tardy to school? The school usually punishes him for having excessive tardies in a given time frame. Wouldn’t most of us agree that the teacher has the right to inflict consequences on the student who constantly interrupts his/her class with his tardiness? What happens if you are late for a doctor’s appointment or a ball game (in which you are participating) or a tee time at a popular golf club? Most of the time you lose your spot! You would be forced to wait for another opening, or possibly even forfeit the game. What happens to the employee who always arrives late? What would you think of a preacher who was often late to services?
One who is consistently late is considered by most people to be selfish. Indeed, it is selfish to expect others to wait on you, or accommodate your tardiness. When you are late, doesn’t it show people that you consider your time to be more valuable than theirs? In the realm of attending church services, consider what message you send to the teacher or preacher when you are habitually late. How would you feel if you had prepared a speech and the audience couldn’t hear or was distracted from listening to you because people kept filing in the door five or ten minutes after you began? What of the Bible class teacher who has spent his spare time preparing lessons in which he always has to start over because of the disruption of the late student? It shows a lack of concern for the subject matter and the preparation that speaker put into his message. It also may cause the teacher to feel as if you really do not care for the effort they have put in. What reaction would visitors to the assembly have if one-fourth of our membership came in after the services started? Would it seem like a congregation of people who were “setting their affections on things above”?
So what does the Bible have to say about punctuality? Does God care if you are often late to worship? We read in Matthew 6:33 to “seek first the kingdom of God.” Jesus encourages Christians to “love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind” (Matt. 22:37). Is it possible to love him wholeheartedly and seek him first and still be habitually late to the assembling of his saints? Consider an example of five girls who were late to a wedding, as recorded in Matthew 25:1-13. They were unprepared for the coming of the bridegroom. Hastily, they attempted to get themselves ready and then appeared at the wedding only to find the door shut and their entrance denied. If these ladies had been on time, with the necessary supplies, they wouldn’t have missed out on the celebration they obviously wanted to attend.
Consider Ephesians 5:16: “Redeeming the time, because the days are evil”; redeem means to “buy up for oneself” (Vine). Paul is not asking us to buy back time, because once time is gone no amount of money can ever buy it back, but he wants us “to pay the necessary price in effort and sacrifice to use properly the time (opportunities) we have now” (C.G. “Colly” Caldwell, Truth Commentaries, Ephesians 247). I have also heard this described as buying fruit in season. Here is the opportunity (season) set aside by the elders to study and worship God. If we are redeeming the time, shouldn’t we be there on time to study and worship our Creator? What better use of our time is there than to be together with those of like precious faith studying the word of God?
Brethren, coming from a father of two small children, I know that it is not easy to get everything together and get to the church building before services are scheduled to begin. It takes forethought and dedication, but it can be done! We can be like Ezra, in the days of old, who “prepared his heart to seek the Lord” (Ezra 7:10). These are some routines that work for my family in our endeavor to be punctual. It may benefit you, as well, to try these practical tips to help you and your family get to services on time?
1. Have a plan. Resolve to get to the building ten minutes before services start.
2. Set a goal. Decide what time you need to leave your house so you’ll arrive at the building at your designated time. Make every effort to leave at that time—even if someone’s hair isn’t fixed perfectly or someone’s shoes are untied. If you make this a consistent policy your family will know what to expect and will adapt accordingly!
3. Think ahead. Lay out everyone’s clothes the night before or an hour before departure time.
4. Get organized. Gather Bibles and Bible class material beforehand so it’s easily accessible when it’s time to leave.
5. Take care of physical needs. Feed everyone in plenty of time to be finished
and cleaned up before it’s time to leave.
Brethren, I know that you will find being punctual much better for your family than persistent tardiness. Consider these advantages to always arriving on time for worship.
1. You are calm and relaxed. You aren’t rushing around. You are preparing your mind to seek the Lord.
2. You can visit with fellow Christians before services.
3. You can situate yourself, your Bible, and your class materials in plenty of time for class.
4. You aren’t causing weaker brethren to be distracted by your late arrival.
Not only will your family benefit, but the services will be conducted in a more decent and orderly fashion (1 Cor. 14:40) if every member were to arrive on time for services. If we are truly setting our affections on things above, we will want to be present when the word of God is being discussed. Brethren, let us all strive to be more punctual!
By Michael Gibson – Truth Magazine, May 4th, 2006.
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