What do we mean when we say, “I’m on the clock”? It most often means that we are at work and cannot be distracted by anything outside of our duties. During “on the clock” hours, my time is not my own. I am held accountable for how I use my time, mostly because someone is paying me for it. “On the clock” means we are busy and have to make productive use of our time. When we are off the clock, we are free to use our time in any way we choose. During these times, we have freedom in that we are no longer held accountable for our time management, or lack thereof. It is entirely our own.
Like you, I prefer to be “off the clock” rather than on it. Yet, if you are a follower of Jesus, then you are never really off the clock. 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 says, “…or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own? For you have been bought for a price: therefore, glorify God in your body.”
God has bought us with the price of His own Son so that we could receive the Holy Spirit and live for things that are imperishable rather than for that which will pass away. Our time isn’t our own. God didn’t pay the price of His beloved son so that we would live for him just on Sunday, or just when we are in the church building. Romans 12:1 puts it this way: “Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship.”
Both of the above-mentioned verses share the reason why we should live “on the clock” for the Lord. Not to earn God’s favor or work to gain his mercy, but it should be the response to the mercy that God has already shown us. It is because He has bought us. These verses demonstrate that this isn’t a transaction but instead a reply to what God has done for us.
When we use the phrase “I’m off the clock,” it implies that our time is our own. But, the fact of the matter is, we don’t own anything. Everything we have is a result of God’s grace toward us. We are only managers or stewards of what God has entrusted to us. The Parable of the Talents, found in Matthew 25, is Jesus describing what the kingdom of God is like. Here’s what it says:
14 “For it will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants and entrusted to them his property. 15 To one he gave five talents, to another two, to another one, to each according to his ability. Then he went away. 16 He who had received the five talents went at once and traded with them, and he made five talents more. 17 So also he who had the two talents made two talents more. 18 But he who had received the one talent went and dug in the ground and hid his master’s money. 19 Now after a long time the master of those servants came and settled accounts with them. 20 And he who had received the five talents came forward, bringing five talents more, saying, ‘Master, you delivered to me five talents; here, I have made five talents more.’ 21 His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.’ 22 And he also who had the two talents came forward, saying, ‘Master, you delivered to me two talents; here, I have made two talents more.’ 23 His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.’ 24 He also who had received the one talent came forward, saying, ‘Master, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you scattered no seed, 25 so I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground. Here, you have what is yours.’ 26 But his master answered him, ‘You wicked and slothful servant! You knew that I reap where I have not sown and gather where I scattered no seed? 27 Then you ought to have invested my money with the bankers, and at my coming I should have received what was my own with interest. 28 So take the talent from him and give it to him who has the ten talents. 29 For to everyone who has will more be given, and he will have an abundance. But from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away. 30 And cast the worthless servant into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”
A “talent” was a quantity of money, with each person receiving a different amount of them in the parable. What we personally have been given today isn’t just money. All that we own has been given through God’s grace for our management or stewardship. James 1:17 make clear the scope of this thought: “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like the shifting shadows.”
We can interpret the word “talent” today as someone’s God-given abilities. Believe it or not, our English definition of talent is derived from these exact verses of scripture. Our talents are what God as entrusted to us, and He calls each person, no matter how talented, to be faithful with what they have been given. We are all gifted differently, with varying amounts of time on this earth, relationships, amounts of money, abilities, and spiritual gifts. He doesn’t call us to fit into a one-size-fits-all ministry, but instead calls us to handle wisely and steward the gifts He has given.
1 Peter 4:10 says it this way: “As each one has received a special gift, employ it in serving one another as good stewards of the multifaceted grace of God.”
If you are interested in learning more on the topic, 1 Corinthians 12 is a good place to start. This chapter elaborates on the different gifts that we have been given by God. My hope is that this has been encouraging to you, knowing that we all have been shown grace and are gifted in different ways. My challenge is to have a different perspective of “being on the clock” moving forward. As believers, we are bought with a price. We all serve one Lord but have been given different gifts. Each one of us has been given the call of stewardship and to be faithful with the grace we have been shown. What are some of your gifts, resources, and talents that you could use for the Lord today?