Benjamin Franklin once wrote a famous quotation about money that still haunts us today:
Remember that time is money. He that can earn ten shillings a day by his labour, and goes abroad, or sits idle one half of that day, though he spends but sixpence during his diversion or idleness, it ought not to be reckoned the only expence; he hath really spent or thrown away five shillings besides.Benjamin Franklin, from the essay “Advice to a Young Tradesman” in The American Instructor: or Young Man’s Best Companion by George Fisher, 1748. Emphasis added.
“Remember that time is money.” Only five short words, yet for centuries Americans have internalized many unhealthy assumptions about money and time. Here are three unhealthy assumptions we continue to live by, fueled by a “time is money” mentality:
The goal is always more money.
Ben Franklin’s full statement is telling: “diversions” or “idleness” mean that one not only loses money by spending money during that time, but also loses money since they weren’t working during that time, either. The implication is clear: one should always be working as much as possible, in order to make as much money as possible.
But as Ebenezer Scrooge can attest, there is so much more to life than always working to make more money. When we consistently put money first, we miss out on time with loved ones, creative outlets, and opportunities to serve others.
Putting money first becomes a painful existence for us, because God didn’t create us to focus most of our time and energy on making more money.
For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, and in their eagerness to be rich some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pains.1 Timothy 6:10
When we devote ourselves to making money, we wander away from God and the life God wants for us. Consumer culture wants us to think that the goal of life is to make money– but God reminds us that the love of money can cause us to stray and experience more pain.
We always have the energy to do more.
Here’s another reason “time is money” is a lie– the statement assumes that we always have the energy to do more and be more productive (to make more money). It’s easy to assume that we have an infinite amount of energy, but the truth is (especially as we get older!) our energy is a resource that we have to use intentionally.
When we are not intentional with our energy, we burn out and get sick. God did not create us to continuously work, and when we try to work constantly, we are actually killing ourselves. This is important for everyone, but especially for people like myself who are chronically ill– we have to be deliberate in how we use our energy so that we don’t get sicker.
This is why God instituted the Sabbath, so that we could rest and renew ourselves in God’s presence. Ben Franklin’s statement totally disregards our need for rest and renewal. God tells us:
I will satisfy the weary,Jeremiah 31:25
and all who are faint I will replenish.
You were not made to constantly work and produce. Take the time you need for rest and spiritual refreshment.
Time is wasted if we are not productive/making money.
We are often told (either explicitly or implicitly) that if we spend our time on unproductive activities, we have wasted our time.
This is a lie told by consumer culture. Our well-being is not a concern to consumer culture; our ability to work and produce and make money is what’s most important. Ben Franklin completely buys into this lie (pun intended) by telling us that if we travel or are idle, we wasted time we could have been making more money.
Jesus clearly did not believe this lie; his ministry on earth was based on healing the sick, teaching people about God’s love, and spending time with his disciples and others– not about making money or being “productive” in the way society expected him to be. Jesus teaches us:
No one can serve two masters; for a slave will either hate the one and love the other, or be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth.Matthew 6:24
We are called to spend time doing other things– like focusing on our spiritual growth in prayer in Scripture, being with loved ones, taking care of our health, serving others– as well as being productive. We cannot serve both God and wealth. Don’t be taken in by consumer culture’s lies about “wasting time.” Time focusing on what’s most important is never wasted.
Time is Not Money
Ben Franklin was wrong. Time is not money, and we have been treating his words like Gospel for way too long.
Let’s say “no more” and break consumer culture’s hold on us. Let us live as Christian minimalists, following Jesus by focusing on what matters most. Let’s live the life Jesus is calling us to live.
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