by Dr. Mark T. White
Author Harold Kushner has proposed what he calls the instant coffee theory of life. He says that when you open a new jar of coffee you tend to dole it out in generous portions, because you have a jar full of coffee. But halfway down the jar, you tend to be a little more conservative. You realize that the jar isn’t going to last forever. By the time you reach the bottom of the jar, you find yourself measuring your portions very carefully, reaching into the corners of the jar for every last grain.
We tend to treat our time that way. When we are young, we think we can afford to waste time. We have an entire life in front of us. We feel as if we will last forever. But about halfway through life, it begins to dawn on us that we are not going to live forever, and we begin to reevaluate every area of our lives.
By the time we reach our 50’s and 60’s, we realize that we have fewer years ahead of us than are behind us. And toward the end of our lives we ask, “How did life go by so quickly?”
In the oldest of all psalms, Moses expresses the same thought. Life is very brief. “As for the days of our life, they contain seventy years, or if due to strength eighty years, yet their pride is but labor and sorrow; for soon it is gone and we fly away.”
What should be our response to the brevity of life? Panic? Despair? Hedonism? No. Moses prayer is that God will “teach us to number our days that we may present to Thee a heart of wisdom.” I like the way the Living Bible translates verse 12 of Psalm 90: “So teach us how to number our days and recognize how few they are. Help us to spend them as we should.”
Moses says that we are to measure out our time as carefully as we apportion the final grains in the coffee jar. Yes, time is brief and, therefore, valuable. And as Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “The best use of time is to spend it on that which outlasts it.”
Mark T. White is the pastor of First Baptist Church of Clayton, NC, and this article first appeared in their church newsletter, The Outlook.