Time is a mystery. Is time a physical phenomenon? Is it a geologic phenomena? Does time exist outside of human consciousness? Is time absolute or relative? Why do humans put so much emphasis on time, so that we gauge our entire lives by hours, days, months, years?
The Bible, Old Testament and New Testament, says little that is concrete about time. Time, indeed, seems more of a metaphor for passing than an exact instrument of measuring movement. Like all ancient literature, there are no dates, no clear chronology, in the Bible. And yet Jesus, as the Gospels record his comments and sayings, appears to have been very aware and concerned about time.
Take Matthew chapter 6, after Jesus tells his disciples that one cannot serve both God and Mammon. Mammon–riches–are acquired in time: people spend their hours, days, weeks, months, and years trying to figure out how to gain property and accumulate riches. Jesus brings Mammon down to an everyday level: the food we eat, the clothes we wear. He cautions the disciples not to spend their days worrying about food, drink, clothing, and shelter. Life is more than this.
Anxiety adds little to our existence, yet, Jesus implies, people spend their days anxiously trying to secure food, drink, clothing, property, wealth, riches. He argues that if God provides for the birds of the air, the flowers of the field, then God will provide for us.
Each day has it owns challenges, its own evil. One should focus on the moral challenges of the day rather than what to eat and drink. Each moment should be savored for the life that is being lived rather than constantly anticipating what will happen next, what I will eat and wear and where I will go to do it.
I constantly feel oppressed by time and worry over its passing and the passages of my family and my life. I seem to want to record or grasp hold of passing moments, perhaps to the exclusion of actually experiencing and savoring them. Each moment is a gift from God and should be savored—one doesn’t know how many such moments one has in life, how many are left. On the other hand, I have also felt dissatisfied in various moments, like I cannot wait for them to pass to get to another time, another day, another week. I feel restless and often at a loss as to what to do. My books often seem to be a panacea for this restlessness, but in the act of writing them I am restless for the end of the book to come and for the next project to begin. What folly!
Jesus taught that there are increments of transcendent truth found in the everyday, in the isolated moments of existence, in the sensations and feelings that appear real if fleeting, true if just for an instant, that we can gleam from everyday life. We hardly see them in the distractions of the moment but these increments we see combined as we reflect on the past in retrospect, and we see revealed the transcendent, that truth exists.
Therefore, he says, don’t be anxious for tomorrow, for tomorrow will have enough in it to produce anxiety. Think of today, the present, and achieve contentment now, in God. Each day has it own challenges, its own evil: to find peace–rather than a good dinner and excellent glass of wine–is the key to happiness, to living as Jesus taught us to do.