Pioneers in Canada and the northern United States knew that they needed to produce a crop every single year. If a farmer’s crop failed and he had no reserves, he and his family had to depend on the help of others or they and their livestock would starve. The growing season was short and winter cold stopped all food production.
These pioneers, not surprisingly, saw time as linear, one event following another in rigid succession. The right time to plant was critical, miss it by even a week or two and the crops would not ripen before the first killing frost. They had to do things at the right time, they had to keep their word when they promised a neighbor they would help, and they expected the neighbor to be dependable in return. The harsh winter weather looming ahead kept them working hard at harvest time.
This is not so in tropical or sub-tropical countries. Jo and I lived for decades in Brazil, and have spent considerable time, even years in at least a half a dozen other tropical countries. In Brazil, we planted fruit trees in our garden area with no regard for the month or the season. The Canela people can leave their manioc plantations grow right through the whole year, and if they don’t harvest the roots, they can leave them in the ground to grow for another year. A Manitoba potato farmer trying that would face financial ruin.
No wonder that the societies that live in a more forgiving climate developed a completely different view of time. Instead of seeing time as linear—a straight line with no recurrence of events, they see time as cyclical—as a cycle of events coming around repeatedly like a wheel. Miss an opportunity to plant? No problem, it will come around again in another day, or week or month.
In the countries where time is seen as cyclical, cultures tend to have many things in common. One is the lack of urgency. Delay is expected, no one is surprised when things don’t happen as planned. People may, or may not show up for meetings. Deliveries may, or may not be delivered at the stated time. Deadlines are missed without people getting upset. Projects are completed, eventually, but with no sense of urgency.
North Americans returning from vacations in some of these countries often express the wish they could live relaxed like that. No rush. No deadline. Finish the job tomorrow, or next week, no problem.
But there is a problem. On earth, ever since the dismal event in the Garden of Eden, entropy or disorder operates unless human being act to stop it. Work must be done at the right time. Metal rusts, unless we paint it, gardens turn into weed beds, unless we cultivate them, unused muscles wither away, skills not practiced are forgotten, peace will deteriorate into war unless someone interferes, and human relationships must be maintained or they too will deteriorate.
Therefore, to God and His people, it does matter what view of time we have. God’s view of time is certainly linear. There is a definite start to time and Scripture teaches there will be a definite end. “Time will be no more.” As His people, we need to live with a sense of urgency, “work for the night is coming,” of diligence, of being pro-active, assiduous, and persistent, actively at work at the tasks He gives us. Here are some examples:
- Evangelize the world and start by being “light and salt” to our own families, friends and neighbors.
- Stop the mass murder of made-in-the-image-of-God babies in the womb.
- Promote and protect the God-instituted man-woman institution of marriage and family.
- Protect the freedom of parents to have their children educated in Christian schools.
- Get involved in the nitty-gritty of politics such as the nominations of candidates.
The world desperately needs God-oriented activists in every facet of society. People who, like God, have a linear view of time. What view of time do your actions show?