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May 10

Time is Money

Posted by: Steve Marr

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I receive requests asking for my free time regularly. If I said yes to each request, I would get little else done.  I filter these requests for free time into three categories.

Some requests come from people with whom I have a relationship. For example, a good client asked me to help provide a perspective on a church building issue.  I was happy to accommodate. We need to share ourselves in ways that strengthen our relationships. Another example was that a good friend asked me to talk with their daughter about starting a new business. I was happy to assist.Other requests hit my ministry passion.  I believe I need to accept them out of obedience to the Lord’s call on my life.  A Christian business group asked me to make a presentation on how to integrate integrity into everyday business. This is a main part of my ministry focus so the time I invested for this presentation was not wasted.

The third type of requests comes from strangers. Someone I did not know asked me to read and provide feedback on a book manuscript. This would have required a 10-hour investment to read and compose notes. My guess was that the person wanted me to praise the proposed book, not critique it. If they took issue with my feedback, it would take more time to detail my thoughts. I politely declined. 

Others have asked me to read, analyze, and furnish feedback on a business plan, as a favor. I explain that I have a policy of conducting a complimentary introductory meeting, at which time we can discuss the highlights of the plan.  However, any additional work would require payment for consulting services.

When someone asks me for free time, I assess what the person wants and what is expected. I ask the Lord for guidance. Unless I believe the Lord is prompting me to accept, I usually decline. 

A shopkeeper was struggling and asked me to provide a free consultation. I estimated that I would need about 6 hours for the assessment and to complete my first recommendations. I offered to do the work for half price given the financial situation.  The business owner responded, “I need help.  Why can’t you help?”  I countered by asking, “If a customer walked into the store and wanted $200 worth of merchandise, but had no money; would you just give them the merchandise without requiring payment?” The shop owner admitted, “Well no, we would go out of business.” I responded, “Exactly, my time is my inventory.” 

Other times I look for opportunities to offer alternatives. A while back I received an invitation to speak for free at a church in Europe. They offered to cover my expenses including travel and hotel.  This would have been a minimum four-day time commitment. Four days are valuable to me.  I offered to present by Skype for free. Even though I offered an alternative, they declined. 

Moses prayed, “Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.” (Psalm 90:12, NIV). This is good advice.  We must use our time wisely. Some have little regard for others people’s time. They may see their time as valuable, not so much your time.

Economists teach that free goods build a large demand. This is understandable.  We all like free. But time is not free. Don’t treat time as a free commodity.

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