There are some things that, no matter how you say them, sound like a quote from one of those positive-thinking, winning-attitude, “you-can-do-anything-if-you-buy-our-stuff” infomercials on cable TV. Those are the kind of trite clichs that I usually go out of my way to avoid, yet I can find no better way of stating what I call “The Twenty-Four Hour Rule” than to use a trite clich—whether I like it or not.
Every single day of every person’s life has one thing in common: it’s exactly twenty-four hours long. The difference between the successful folks and the unsuccessful ones isn’t that the successful have more time, but rather is how successful people use the limited time that’s been given to them.
You have 86,400 seconds at your disposal today. It doesn’t matter if you are an incredibly successful businessperson, or an incredibly down-and-out street bum, your day lasts exactly 86,400 seconds, just like everyone else. I like to think in terms of 86,400 seconds, rather than 24 hours, because it just sounds longer. That’s really just a mind game; 24 hours is 24 hours, no matter how you state it. There’s nothing that you or I can do to make today last one nanosecond longer.
If there is a doorway to success, the key that unlocks that door is the wise usage of time. I’m not suggesting that we all hire efficiency experts to watch our every move and shave those wasted seconds from our days, but I do believe that most of us waste an awful lot of time on things that don’t really matter. As much as I dislike those efficiency experts with their stopwatches, it is a real eyeopener to keep a log of how you spend every waking minute of your day. It doesn’t take long to realize that each and every day is filled with time-wasting opportunities, just waiting for the chance to swallow our seconds.
As I look back on the time I’ve wasted in recent days, one thing that stands out is how much time I have wasted debating things with people who have absolutely no interest in rethinking their position. Some people are simply convinced that they have all the answers, and there is nothing more for them to learn. Trying to discuss almost any point of disagreement with these folks is not unlike trying to teach a pig to sing: It frustrates you, and annoys the pig.
Speaking of pigs, Jesus used pigs to illustrate this principle:
“Do not give what is holy to dogs, and do not throw your pearls before swine, or they will trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you to pieces.” (Matthew 7:6)
At first glance, this appears to be referring to the Gentiles, speaking of them in the sort of derogatory tone common to the Jews of that era when referring to Gentiles. When viewed in context, however, Jesus is clearly making a more basic observation about the importance of the listener’s willingness to listen and learn. The swine cannot possibly appreciate the beauty and complexity of a fine, rare pearl. The swine only sees that they are not edible, and therefore dismisses them as unimportant and worthless, trampling those costly gems underfoot. Likewise, sharing Christ with someone who is strongly anti-Christian in their convictions is a waste of time and energy. So is debating points of doctrine with someone whose mind is closed to discussions of other viewpoints. When brothers or sisters in Christ discuss the scriptures with a sincere desire to better know Jesus and His teachings, great things are possible. When that goal is replaced with a competitive spirit that is more interested in winning the argument than in seeking the truth, you’re not just “throwing your pearls before swine,” you’re shoveling them. Nobody REALLY wins those arguments, except for our enemies who use them to divide us.
You have twenty-four hours available to you today—86,400 seconds. You’ve just invested a few of them by reading this column. If you read it without getting the point and putting it into practice, you’ve just squandered a few hundred of those seconds. If you get the point and apply it, you could save thousands of seconds today—time you can use to encourage someone, to share Jesus with a stranger, or just to spend with Him, getting to know Him better.
Those seconds are your pearls. Where you cast them is completely up to you.