“Well, that was a great parent conference. I’m incompetent and you are a slacker!”
My teaching partner summed up the dressing down we had just received from a parent who obviously came prepared with an agenda. Poor Chris, a first-year teacher, wondered if he truly was incompetent. I had to assure him that it was a ridiculous, cruel statement. I, a seasoned teacher who worked diligently to make sure I returned papers and exams promptly, still didn’t measure up to the unreasonable standards set by this parent who was generally unhappy about our entire fourth grade program. According to her, we were a waste of time!
Scripture warns against time wasters and slackers. Sometimes it is a complaint against sluggards who spend too much of their day in bed (Proverbs 6:9). The Thessalonians received not one but two letters from the apostle Paul warning them about being idlers (1Thessalonians 5:14; 2 Thessalonians 3:6, 11). As a new evangelist, Timothy was warned about those who were wasting time sticking their noses into other people’s business (1 Timothy 5:13).
Although modern conveniences should give us more time to imagine and dream, we feel compelled to fill that extra time with more work, so we don’t look like a sluggard. Daydreaming is considered a waste of time. However, it can be the time needed for creativity or reflection. After all, people who work in “think tanks” are paid big money for what some people would consider idle thoughts.
Some people feel they should be the time monitors for everyone else. They alone have the standard of measurement to determine if someone is a slacker or time waster. When one teacher saw my crates of writing portfolios to grade, he was quick to comment on what a waste of my time that was. I could easily finish my grade reports if I just switched to quizzes and tests and used the Scantron. Of course, those comments included a shake of his head and some not-so-subtle judgment.
We hate it when others waste our time. But as leaders, we can be the source of that task that ends up being a waste of someone’s time.
When I worked as a temp worker at a large company, I helped a young man with his assigned task of writing an important customer letter. In the days before computers and word processing, the typed master had to be perfect. Smiling my congratulations on our well-spent morning of rewrites and edits, I handed him the finished letter. He tossed it in the wastebasket. His boss had changed his mind and the letter was no longer needed. The young man’s slumped shoulders spoke volumes to his discouragement with a manager who had just dismissed his hard work without even a thought.
At one school where I taught, I was assigned an exciting, year-long project developing a new, school-wide writing curriculum. I spent hours researching and then testing options firsthand in the different classrooms. At the end of the year, I presented my results and plans for implementation the following school year. I was abruptly told that it was no longer a priority, and it wouldn’t be happening.
Is God a slacker? Am I wasting my time believing He will make things right some day in the future? Can I trust Him to follow through? I comfort myself with the words in Ecclesiastes that the time will come even though we keep seeing misery around us (Ecclesiastes 3:17, 8:6). At the same time, I channel the disappointment of Job who felt the Almighty was holding back His judgment for no reason (Job 24:1). I shout with the Psalmist that it’s time for Him to act (Psalm 119:126)! What is He waiting for?
And then I’m reminded that God’s timetable isn’t dependent on what I want. He isn’t slow to keep His promises. He’s being patient with His creation so that more and more people can be saved (2 Peter 3:8-9). And Ecclesiastes tells me to be patient in waiting for the Lord to act. I love the Good News Translation of chapter 3 verse 11: “He has set the right time for everything. He has given us a desire to know the future, but never gives us the satisfaction of fully understanding what He does.”
Even though I keep looking to the future, I know God, in His own time frame, has kept His promise. At just the right time He sent His only Son, our Lord Jesus, born to be my Savior so I could be His adopted daughter (Galatians 4:4-5).
Though I wish sometimes He would move things along, I know my Lord isn’t a slacker. I hold onto that promise that I am living in the “time of God’s favor” (2 Corinthians 6:2). And I know that one day my Lord Jesus will come again at just the right time to restore everything back to the way it was meant to be (1 Timothy 6:14-15; Acts 3:21).
God has kept His promises down through the ages, and I am confident that He will continue to do so. He kept His promise when He sent His Son, born in that humble stable, and He will continue to keep His promises… always in His perfect time!