After buying a company worth twenty-seven billion dollars, Warren Buffet was asked in an interview why he manages his diary so meticulously.
Buffet explained that he manages his time with the utmost care, because;
“I can buy anything I want, but I can’t buy time”
There is a great disparity of wealth between the likes of ourselves compared to Buffet. Buffets wealth is something-something billion dollars (and fluctuates like the weather) whereas our wealth is simply incalculable, and is stored up in heaven.
However despite the great disparity between us, there is a good lesson in what Buffet said. Just as his colossal fortune causes him to guard his use of time with obsessive carefulness, so too our rich faith and hope should prompt us to guard our time to ensure it is used wisely.
Christ’s message to us of faith was, “occupy till I come”. This message was incredibly important because he said this in context of the parable of the money that the nobleman gave to his servants before he travelled to a far country. When the nobleman returned, he found that each servant had invested his money in varying ways. Some had simply done nothing while others had invested their money hard. This is a very frank picture of what it will be like when Christ returns; some of us will have invested hard in using our time for God and sadly, others will have done very little with their time to advance Gods work.
And so the question is, how are we occupying our time? How are we spending, investing and managing our time? What do we do in our spare time?
A key area of concern is the amount of time we spend swiping, browsing, sharing and interacting on social media platforms like Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram and more. These platforms seem free, but they’re not; we pay for them with our time. Our time and information are then sold by these platforms to third party advertisers.
These platforms are designed so that we develop an addiction to them; there’s a term for it – its called “Persuasive design”. Persuasive design is a design practice that focuses on influencing our behaviour. Persuasive design techniques are ingrained in our social media apps to try and influence our human psyche and habits. From a neurological point of view, we respond to these design techniques in two ways. Firstly, we feel a subconscious stress response, (because we are waiting for something to happen and have no idea where its going to go), and secondly, they stimulate a dopamine release for building anticipation which makes us feel the urge to come back to find out more. This generates which is known as “FOMO” – “Fear of missing out”.
We also get a good dopamine fix when watching TV. Today’s producers know all the neurological design tricks to get viewers addicted and living with an insatiable anticipation for the release of the next episode, or the next live sports coverage. The producers highlight the most intense moments of the season and preview them over and over again; they cut the scenes just at the point when viewers are about to discover a thrilling new element to the story; they deploy and elicit the full spectrum of emotions (disgust being an increasingly popular emotion that viewers like to feel) and are always sure to make viewers question what is right.
Giving in to mindless habits like TV or social media whenever we find free time is like reaching for the bottle that says “dopamine”: we take a sip and fulfil the behaviour of an addict. We surrender our precious time to the advertisers so that they can ask us to surrender our money as well.
Of course, many of these activities are not of themselves evil, but let’s not be naive about this; not only are they proven to have adverse social, psychological and neurological effects, but they can also have an insidious effect on our relationship with God, depending on how much time we invest in them.
When we constantly surrender ourselves to easy, mindless and impulsive habits like these, we demonstrate to God our lack of self-control and we cripple our ability to commit brain power to Gods work. And so the question is, how are we occupying our time? How are we spending, investing and managing our time?
The clock is ticking. Prophecy is unfolding quickly.
The nobleman is about to return from a far country and gather us together to judge how we have occupied our time. Have we been reading his word each day? Have we been preaching the gospel? Have we been contacting and visiting the fatherless and widows in their affliction?
Or have we surrendered our spare time to mindless habits that are of no worth to Christ?