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Brevard Childs, the late Old Testament professor, wrote in the intro to his Biblical Theology:

“From my library shelves the great volumes of the Fathers, school-men and reformers look down invitingly. I have also acquired over the years many of the great classics of the Reformed and Lutheran post reformation tradition. However, life is too short for a biblical specialist to do more than read selectively and dabble here and there.”

You really don’t even need to know the context to grasp the quote. Simply put, Childs understood that he couldn’t read everything. He didn’t have enough time.

In my own life, books have taken on a powerful role in reminding me daily that my days are limited. Maybe it is just because I am a slow reader. But I can’t even glance at the unread books that sit there haunting me from their designated shelf space without realizing that there are a limited number of books I have time left on this earth to read.

This reality is accentuated by the fact that I have a list of books in my head that I want to read and which are not even on the shelf yet and yet which I know, again, amounts to more reading time than I have left.

It is strange the things the Lord can use to remind us of and reinforce biblical truths. Who would ever think that books could have such a morbid and prophetic voice, but they do, at least for me.

Books speak before I even crack the cover—saying in what I imagine to be an old scratchy, oxfordish, baritone-sounding voice—something like, “You’re running out of time, choose wisely.”

Books help me to recover a sense of my own finitude, and to be honest that is worth more than all the words that fill their pages.

A Limited Amount of Life

As far as I have experienced, it is only when a person grasps the limits of their own life that they begin to use their life wisely. Think about money as the analogy: When you assume your supply of dollars is endless, you don’t get wise with your spending; you get frivolous; you waste it because there is (allegedly) an abundance of it.

But when you realize that you only have so much money and on top of that that you only have so much time in your life to make money, you start to account for every dollar and maybe even every penny; you begin to think about where every penny and dollar go.

As far as I have experienced, it is only when a person grasps the limits of their own life that they begin to use their life wisely.

I don’t think that time works much differently than money. When you start to take account of your time, that is when you start to think about how every hour and day is spent; you go from spending your time frivolously to spending it intentionally.

And when do you start to take account of your time? You start to take account of it when you realize that it is limited and that unlike money there will be no chance to make more.

Making the best use of your time

For me, it is books that remind me often of my finite life. Of course, those books aren’t saying anything new. They are just pointing me back to the Scriptures and reawakening the many verses living in the back of my mind that speak this very truth.

Job 14:1-2 “Man who is born of a woman is few of days and full of trouble. He comes out like a flower and withers; he flees like a shadow and continues not.”

Psalm 39:5 “Behold, you have made my days a few handbreadths, and my lifetime is as nothing before you. Surely all mankind stands as a mere breath!”

Psalm 89:47 Remember how short my time is! For what vanity you have created all the children of man!”

Psalm 103:15 “As for man, his days are like grass; he flourishes like a flower of the field; All flesh is grass, and all its beauty is like the flower of the field.”

1 Peter 1:24-25 “All flesh is like grass and all its glory like the flower of grass. The grass withers, and the flower falls, but the word of the Lord remains forever.”

If there are only so many books you have time to read, choose wisely. If there is only so much money you have to spend, spend wisely.

If there are only so many days and hours you have to live, in the words of the Apostle Paul, “Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time” (Ephesians 5:15-16).