Opinion: “In a way, being late is theft”




As the travel companies so often advise, please allow extra time for your journey.

It sounds so very obvious, but over the years, I wish I’d left early, be it for travel, appointments, the airport or the dentist (OK, not the dentist). Rushing is what I tend to spend my life doing. And it’s mainly because of one simple, debilitating habit: I like to calculate how much time it will take me to get somewhere, and then leave with exactly that amount to complete the journey. This means that I am constantly clock watching while getting to meetings (my church office is 28 minutes and 30 seconds away if traffic is light).

This habit means that I feel frantic as I dash to the airport (one hour 14 minutes), hoping and praying that I’ll be there on time, feeling massively stressed throughout the journey and arriving somewhat emotionally fractured. Ironically, in trying to achieve more, I achieve less, because my head is brimming with anxiety and I waste the journey time; instead of reflecting or planning, I’m too busy worrying that I’m going to miss that plane.

Ironically, I am a very punctual person and I believe that being late is insulting, because a delay costs other people time. When I am late, not only am I delayed, but it tells those that I am meeting that I do not consider their time to be important. I know people who were probably late being born, and have been consistently late ever since. If they arrive punctually, then it’s a surprise. Now they have a reputation for not keeping their word.

In a way, being late is theft. Horace Mann put it rather bluntly: “Unfaithfulness in the keeping of an appointment is an act of clear dishonesty. You may as well borrow a person’s money as their time.” Sometimes, being late brings total disaster.

There’s an episode in the Bible where we can be certain that a delayed arrival created all kinds of problems. Samuel had agreed to meet nervous King Saul, and he was just a little late. I’m not talking 20 minutes, or even an hour. Saul had been told to wait a week for Samuel to arrive, but even then, Samuel missed the deadline, and Saul’s demoralised troops began to scatter. Saul panicked and offered sacrifices; a job reserved exclusively for the priesthood. We’re not told why Samuel was delayed, but his lateness certainly had dire consequences. So keep your word. Don’t say the cheque is in the post if it isn’t. Leave early. And be on time.

Main photo credit: Ales Krivec via Unsplash

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Jeff Lucas

Author and speaker Jeff Lucas travels internationally in a ministry of Bible teaching which carries a specific vision to encourage and equip the church. He is the author of fourteen books. He writes a monthly column for Christianity Magazine, as well as daily Bible notes for CWR entitled Lucas on Life Every Day.

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