Buying Out Time for Reading and Study
“[Buy] out the opportune time for yourselves, because the days are wicked.”—EPHESIANS 5:16.
1. Why is it wise for us to budget our time, and what can the way we use our time reveal about us?
IT HAS been said that “to choose time is to save time.” A person who allots a specific amount of time to things that need to be done will often get more out of his time. Wise King Solomon wrote: “Everything has its appointed hour, there is a time for all things under heaven.” (Ecclesiastes 3:1, Moffatt) We all have the same amount of time at our disposal; it is up to us as to how we use it. The way we fix our priorities and apportion our time reveals to a large degree what is dearest to our heart.—Matthew 6:21.
2. (a) In his Sermon on the Mount, what did Jesus say about our spiritual need? (b) What self-examination would be in order?
2 We are obliged to spend time eating and sleeping because these are physical needs. But what of our spiritual needs? We know that they must be satisfied as well. In his Sermon on the Mount, Jesus declared: “Happy are those conscious of their spiritual need.” (Matthew 5:3) That is why “the faithful and discreet slave” regularly reminds us of the importance of devoting time to Bible reading and study. (Matthew 24:45) You may realize how important this is, but you may feel that you just do not have time to study or to read the Bible. If so, let us examine ways and means of making more room in our life for reading God’s Word, for personal study, and for meditation.
Finding Time for Bible Reading and Study
3, 4. (a) What counsel did the apostle Paul give concerning the use of our time, and what does this include? (b) What did Paul mean when he counseled us to ‘buy out the opportune time for ourselves’?
3 In view of the times we live in, all of us need to take heed of the apostle Paul’s words: “Keep strict watch that how you walk is not as unwise but as wise persons, buying out the opportune time for yourselves, because the days are wicked. On this account cease becoming unreasonable, but go on perceiving what the will of Jehovah is.” (Ephesians 5:15-17) Of course, this counsel covers all features of our lives as dedicated Christians, including finding time for prayer, study, meetings, and sharing as fully as possible in preaching the “good news of the kingdom.”—Matthew 24:14; 28:19, 20.
4 Many of Jehovah’s servants today seem to have difficulty fitting Bible reading and deep study into their lives. Obviously, we cannot add an extra hour to our day, so Paul’s counsel must mean something different. In Greek, the phrase “buying out the opportune time” implies buying at the expense of something else. In his Expository Dictionary, W. E. Vine gives it the meaning of “making the most of every opportunity, turning each to the best advantage since none can be recalled if missed.” From what or where can we buy out the opportune time for reading and studying the Bible?
We Must Set Priorities
5. Why and how should we “make sure of the more important things”?
5 In addition to our secular obligations, we have many things of a spiritual nature to attend to. As Jehovah’s dedicated servants, we have “plenty to do in the work of the Lord.” (1 Corinthians 15:58) For this reason, Paul instructed Christians in Philippi to “make sure of the more important things.” (Philippians 1:10) This means that priorities have to be set. Spiritual things should always take precedence over material considerations. (Matthew 6:31-33) Yet, balance is also needed in meeting our spiritual obligations. How are we apportioning our time between the various aspects of our Christian life? Traveling overseers report that among “the more important things” that a Christian should take care of, personal study and Bible reading tend to be neglected.
6. What can buying out the opportune time involve when it comes to secular work or housework?
6 As we have seen, buying out the opportune time involves “making the most of every opportunity” and “turning each to the best advantage.” So if our Bible reading and study habits leave much to be desired, it would be good to make a personal analysis to see how our time is spent. If our secular work is overly demanding, consuming too much of our time and energy, we should make it a matter of prayer to Jehovah. (Psalm 55:22) We may be able to make adjustments that would leave us more time for the important things having to do with Jehovah’s worship, including study and Bible reading. It has rightly been said that a woman’s work is never done. So Christian sisters must also set their priorities and reserve definite periods for Bible reading and serious study.
7, 8. (a) From what activities can time often be bought out for reading and study? (b) What is the purpose of recreation, and how can remembering this help us set our priorities?
7 By and large, most of us can buy out time for study at the expense of nonessential activities. We might ask ourselves, ‘How much time do I spend reading secular magazines or newspapers, watching television programs, listening to music, or playing video games? Do I spend more time in front of the computer than I do reading the Bible?’ Paul says: “Cease becoming unreasonable, but go on perceiving what the will of Jehovah is.” (Ephesians 5:17) Unreasonable use of television appears to be a major reason why many Witnesses do not devote sufficient time to personal study and Bible reading.—Psalm 101:3; 119:37, 47, 48.
8 Some may say that they cannot study all the time, that they need some recreation. While this is true, it might be good to consider the amount of time we spend relaxing and compare it with the time spent actually studying or reading the Bible. The result might be surprising. Recreation and relaxation, while necessary, must be kept in their proper place. Their purpose is to refresh us for renewed spiritual activities. Many television programs and video games leave a person exhausted, whereas reading and studying God’s Word is refreshing and invigorating.—Psalm 19:7, 8.
How Some Make Room for Studying
9. What are the advantages of following the advice given in the booklet Examining the Scriptures Daily—1999?
9 The foreword to the 1999 edition of the booklet Examining the Scriptures Daily states: “It would be most advantageous to consider the daily text and comments from this booklet in the morning. You will feel as though Jehovah, the Grand Instructor, were waking you up with his instructions. Jesus Christ is prophetically spoken of as benefiting from Jehovah’s instructions each morning: ‘He [Jehovah] awakens morning by morning; he awakens my ear to hear like the taught ones.’ Such instructions gave Jesus ‘the tongue of the taught ones’ so that he would ‘know how to answer the tired one with a word.’ (Isa. 30:20; 50:4; Matt. 11:28-30) Being awakened to timely counsel from the Word of God each morning will not only help you to cope with your own problems but also equip you with ‘the tongue of the taught ones’ to help others.”*
10. How do some make room for Bible reading and study, and with what benefits?
10 Many Christians follow this advice by reading the daily text and comments and by reading the Bible or studying early in the morning. In France a faithful pioneer gets up early every morning and devotes 30 minutes to reading the Bible. What has enabled her to do this over the years? She says: “I am deeply motivated, and I stick to my reading schedule come what may!” Whatever time of the day we choose, the important thing is that we stick to our schedule. René Mica, who has been in the pioneer service for over 40 years in Europe and in North Africa, states: “Since 1950 it has been my goal to read the Bible in its entirety every year, something that I have now done 49 times. I feel that this is vital for my maintaining a close relationship with my Creator. Meditating on God’s Word helps me to understand Jehovah’s justice and his other qualities better and has been a source of incredible strength.”*
“Food Supplies at the Proper Time”
11, 12. (a) What spiritual “food supplies” have been provided by “the faithful steward”? (b) How have the “food supplies” been provided at the proper time?
11 Even as regular eating habits contribute to good physical health, a regular schedule for study and Bible reading is conducive to good spiritual health. In Luke’s Gospel, we read Jesus’ words: “Who really is the faithful steward, the discreet one, whom his master will appoint over his body of attendants to keep giving them their measure of food supplies at the proper time?” (Luke 12:42) For over 120 years now, spiritual “food supplies at the proper time” have been provided in The Watchtower, as well as in other Bible-based books and publications.
12 Note the expression “at the proper time.” At the right moment, our “Grand Instructor,” Jehovah, by means of his Son and the slave class, has guided his people in matters of doctrine and conduct. It has been as if we collectively have heard a voice saying to us: “‘This is the way. Walk in it, you people,’ in case you people should go to the right or in case you should go to the left.” (Isaiah 30:20, 21) Moreover, when individuals attentively read the Bible and all the Bible publications, they frequently have the feeling that thoughts expressed therein are directed specially to them. Yes, godly counsel and direction will come at the proper time for us, enabling us to resist temptation or make a wise decision.
Develop Good Feeding Habits
13. What are some poor spiritual feeding habits?
13 To benefit fully from such “food supplies” provided at the proper time, we need to have good feeding habits. It is essential to have a regular schedule for Bible reading and personal study and to stick to it. Do you have good spiritual feeding habits and regular periods of deep personal study? Or do you just skim the surface of the material that has been carefully prepared for us, eating on the run, so to speak, or even skipping some meals altogether? Poor spiritual feeding habits have caused some to become weak in the faith—even to fall away.—1 Timothy 1:19; 4:15, 16.
14. Why is it beneficial carefully to go over material that may appear familiar?
14 Some may feel that they already know the basic doctrines and that not every article presents something completely new. Therefore, systematic study and meeting attendance are unnecessary. However, the Bible shows that we need to be reminded of things already learned. (Psalm 119:95, 99; 2 Peter 3:1; Jude 5) Just as a good cook prepares the same basic ingredients in many tasty ways, the slave class provides nourishing spiritual food in a wide variety of ways. Even in articles that cover subjects that have frequently been commented on before, there are finer points that we would not want to miss. The fact is that what we get out of our reading material depends to a large degree on how much time and effort we put into studying it.
Spiritual Benefits From Reading and Studying
15. How do reading and studying the Bible help us to be better ministers of God’s Word?
15 The benefits we get from reading and studying the Bible are numerous. We are helped to measure up to one of our basic Christian responsibilities, namely, that we may individually become “a workman with nothing to be ashamed of, handling the word of the truth aright.” (2 Timothy 2:15) The more we read and study the Bible, the more our minds will be filled with God’s thoughts. Then, like Paul, we will be able to ‘reason with people from the Scriptures, explaining and proving by references’ the wonderful truth of Jehovah’s purposes. (Acts 17:2, 3) Our skill in teaching will be enhanced, and our conversations, talks, and counsel will be more upbuilding spiritually.—Proverbs 1:5.
16. In what personal ways do we benefit from reading and studying God’s Word?
16 In addition, time devoted to examining God’s Word will enable us to conform our life more fully to Jehovah’s ways. (Psalm 25:4; 119:9, 10; Proverbs 6:20-23) It will strengthen our spiritual qualities, such as humility, loyalty, and happiness. (Deuteronomy 17:19, 20; Revelation 1:3) When we apply the knowledge we gain from reading and studying the Bible, we enjoy a free flow of God’s spirit in our life, resulting in a greater abundance of the fruitage of the spirit in all that we do.—Galatians 5:22, 23.
17. How do the quantity and quality of our personal Bible reading and study affect our relationship with Jehovah?
17 Most important, the time bought out from other activities to read and study God’s Word will bring rich dividends with regard to our relationship with God. Paul prayed that his fellow Christians might “be filled with the accurate knowledge of [God’s] will in all wisdom and spiritual comprehension, in order to walk worthily of Jehovah to the end of fully pleasing him.” (Colossians 1:9, 10) Likewise, for us “to walk worthily of Jehovah,” we must be “filled with the accurate knowledge of his will in all wisdom and spiritual comprehension.” Clearly, our gaining Jehovah’s blessing and approval depends to a large extent on the quantity and quality of our personal reading and study of the Bible.
18. What blessings can be ours if we follow Jesus’ words recorded at John 17:3?
18 “This means everlasting life, their taking in knowledge of you, the only true God, and of the one whom you sent forth, Jesus Christ.” (John 17:3) That is one of the scriptures most widely used by Jehovah’s Witnesses to help others appreciate the importance of studying God’s Word. It is certainly no less important for each one of us to do so personally. Our very hope of living forever is contingent on our growing in knowledge of Jehovah and his Son, Jesus Christ. And just think what that means. There will never be an end to our learning more about Jehovah—and there will be an eternity in which to learn about him!—Ecclesiastes 3:11; Romans 11:33.
Published by the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of New York, Inc.
See the article “When They Read It and How They Benefit,” published in the May 1, 1995, issue of The Watchtower, pages 20-1.
• What is revealed by the way we use our time?
• From what activities can time be bought out for reading and studying the Bible?
• Why should we watch our spiritual feeding habits?
• What benefits come from reading and studying the Scriptures?
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Regularly reading and studying the Bible will enable us to ‘handle the word of the truth aright’
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Balancing other activities in our busy life with spiritual pursuits brings rich dividends