One of the most popular sayings in modern culture is “time is money”. We use it to talk about how much we value being busy, being productive, getting things done. We are gluttons for efficiency.
Like most colloquialisms, this saying is communicating something significant about who we are. It is saying a lot about how we operate and how we think.
This particular phrase is a way we communicate our perspective on treasure. Value. What is important. We are saying, on the one hand, that time is important. On the other hand, we are saying that money is important. So, we take out the assumed connector (“importance”) and hold these two things up together, next to one another, like siblings born of the same father.
But how do we perceive these two important siblings to relate to one another?
The Purpose of Value
One of the things that gets lost in our assessment of value is a predisposition for how it is to be used. So, time is important, sure. So is money. But why and what are we supposed to do with it? These are the kinds of things to which our subconscious has an answer. Too infrequently, do we think about not just what we are saying and what we perceive, but what we really mean by it.
There are two ways to think about the concept “time is money”. The first is this: what is important needs to be preserved. If money is important, I ought to spend my life trying to get more money. If time is important, I ought to try to get more time – live longer, “manage” my time – in short, not waste it.
This has prudency behind it. But can be problematic as well.
Unchecked, this leads to hoarding. We try to collect what is valuable, afraid that sharing it with others is a form of losing it. We become preoccupied with trying to get more. More time. More money. More of what is valuable. When we get some, we put it in a storehouse, not really sure what to do with it. We are sure we don’t want to waste it and that is about all we are sure of.
This is how we get a society that is obsessed with being busy. We are trying to spend our time making money and our money buying us time. It is a vicious cycle, really. A rat race.
The second, and much more healthy way to perceive the value of both money and time is to think of them as opportunities to be stewarded.
If time is important, how I spend it is what matters. We were in Africa once and one of the locals told us about how they perceived time: “there is always more. It is an unlimited resource. What matters is how you spend it.”
This, generally speaking, is not how we view time in the West. We view time as a depleting resource. That is why we hoard it.
The same is true of money.
There is a story in the Bible where a woman is praised by Jesus for giving the few cents she had. Life, ultimately, is not about getting more money; it is about how we spend it. How we use what we have.
Time and money are two of the greatest opportunities we have. The key to life is not to obsess over how to gather, preserve, and hoard as much as we can. He who dies with the biggest storehouse still dies. The key to life is how we use the valuable resources presented to us.