Wednesday, February 10, 2010

In Praise of Punctuality

“Some are habitually on time, others are habitually late; no one can be on time all the time, and no one needs to be always late. If five people have agreed to meet at a certain time and place, and one if fifteen minutes late, he has used up one hour in terms of manpower, for he has taken away fifteen minutes from each of the others against their will. If they are wise, they will spend that time in reading or in some other useful way, but the latecomer ought not to presume on their good will if he can possibly help it. He might have the boldness to think–or to say–that they need to learn patience, that they are to be anxious in nothing–all of which is true, but he is not the man to tell them that. What he needs to remember, long before the appointment, is ‘rather, that no man put a stumbling block or an occasion to fall in his brother’s way’ (Rom. 14:13); that he has no right to waste others’ time.

Of course, no one can keep the phone or the doorbell from ringing just before he leaves home, nor can he prophesy what will happen on the way; but it is always a good rule to start just a little earlier than you think you need to.

Every Christian worker can discipline himself to be habitually on time, by careful management and foresight. It relives other people of much anxiety, helps them not to waste time and thus makes life easier for them. It is a matter of common honesty and Christian courtesy, and is in line with the injunction to ‘let all thing be done decently and in order’ (I Cor. 14:40).
-Elisabeth Elliot’s Father

Ah. Now I understand and appreciate the value of punctuality. Though the Bible doesn't explicitly say, "Thou shalt be punctual for all thy appointments," punctuality is one way of practising the two greatest commandments: Love God and love people. Being on time is also an application of looking not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others (Philippians 2:4). It is also a way to show honour and respect (Romans 13:7), an expression of submission, and even servanthood since it requires intentional (and maybe tiring) effort on the early-comer's part.

Wow. Personally, this deeper understanding is very important to me, because I don't want to be punctual just for the sake of being punctual. Also, because naturally I am a very slow person. But yes, I am glad that now I can understand better the principles behind being punctual. I think this viewpoint is due to a wise (and very disciplined) leader saying to me some years ago, "Don't try to be organized just for the sake of being organized! But understand first why you want to be organized. Organization is simply a tool to help you do what God wants you to do, and to fulfill His vision for you." So in the same way, I also want to see the purpose of being punctual.

So, yes, I think now that punctuality is a practical application of Christian ethics. Even though it is not explicitly commanded by the Bible, it blesses others so much in so many ways. It is a great discipline to practice patience, kindness, goodness, humility, servanthood, availability, honouring others, consideration... it enhances the quality of work and helps to reduce the workloads of others... prevents anxiety and serves the needs of others... it reduces stress on yourself too... a way of loving yourself... and also loving your neighbour too! :)

And especially when we go for church services on time, it demonstrates our intentionality and sincerity in setting apart a sacred time to worship God, and facilitates orderly worship in the church.

Yes, punctuality is an excellent discipline for practising the Christian virtues of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Thank God for His help and patience in helping me understand better.

Now I'm convinced! :) Dear Lord, please help me grow in punctuality starting from... tomorrow morning at work. Amen. :)


Sarah Wilson said...

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Jia Xiang said...

Finally... Something to mention what punctuality actually means: not for the sake of being punctual, but to honor a promise and to remind the opposite party that they are valued so much that being punctual is the first way to show respect and love for them.

What if it's a dying friend's request to meet a person? Would any of you want to be late for it? Time is not something any human has in abundance: we are only given so much by God and it is VERY precious to all of us. When we give the time, we give part of our lives...

YA, you should put the exerpt, written by Elizabeth Elliot's father, in some public board or announcement: to remind ALL the true value behind punctuality... That Ps Jeff so wanted to cultivate among fellow brothers & sisters...

Ok... maybe my wishful thinking... -___-'

But thanks for sharing this. ^__^

Weizhu said...

One of my shepherds in the past (you can probably guess who) valued punctuality as he wanted to honor the people he was meeting. So much so that if he was going to be late - regardless of whether it was his fault or not - he would take a taxi. And this was when we were all penniless students. If the taxi cost him, he would "fast" a couple of meals. It's not about the taxi, but how he would be on time, whatever the cost. In all my years with him, he was almost never ever late. If he was, there was always a VERY good reason.

I have another good friend who also values punctuality. He would always make known his displeasure when I was late. He's not really angry but he makes a small show of it. The point is, the message comes across strongly that he likes his friends to be on time. Every time I have an appointment with him, I am reminded of that and I avoid being late.

With reference to the last example, I'll suggest that we be "less forgiving" of one another when one is late. We grow to take one another's grace for granted, as evidenced when we say things like "We'll meet at 10am.... but you know how we always are..."

I suppose we could help one another by making our "displeasure" known to the latecomer. When we say "It's okay...", we're condoning the latecoming behavior, and *gasp* reinforcing it. Instead, we should rebuke in gentleness and love. Some furrowed brows and arms akimbo might help too.

yeu@nn said...

@Jia Xiang: hei bro! thanks so much for sharing. i like the part abt the dying friend... very dramatic! haha... and gosh, i'm surprised, i didn't know it was so meaningful! :P but i'm glad it blessed you =) let's help one another make the most of the time God has given us... and especially to honour other people by honouring their time!

@Weizhu! No worries dear bro. Yes, I know what you mean - i have friends who set the boundaries very clearly: you shall be on time. And i am almost always never late with such people. But yeah, the more lenient my friend is, the more relaxed i tend to be. But let's help one another grow in punctuality! Anyway, I see it in another way: I treasure the time with you so much that every minute late is a minute of friendship and fellowship on earth lost! a minute of encouragement lost, a minute of prayer lost, a minute of so many good things lost! so yes, let's lay the law in love when it comes to punctuality!