The Expository Files

Tardiness: Think About These Things!


When I lived in Mulvane, Kansas (Wichita area), I would often attend gospel meetings with my step-father, Judson Woodbridge. He loved to hear gospel preaching, even if he had to put up with my timing and schedule. I would say, "Jud, I'll pick you up at 6:30." He would agree, and then at about six, my phone would start ringing. "Well, are we going?" he would say. "Yes Judson. I'll be there at about 6:30." This would be repeated a couple of times before 6:30. He would get in the car at 6:30 and say something like: "What happened? Where have you been? We're never going to make it on time." At about 7:05 we would arrive in an empty church parking lot. Judson would look around and then say, "Why are we here so early?"

Judson's sense of timing in his old age may be one extreme. To me, it is far more tolerable than the common practice of folks arriving for worship after the worship has already started. In most places there is a pattern: a few arrive 20 minutes or earlier before time to start; most of the others arrive about five minutes before time to start; and everybody else gets there within the first ten minutes of the assembly. There are about three problems associated with this:

(1) When you come in late, you have missed whatever happened before your arrival. (2) The entrance of people into the auditorium after worship has started can be distracting to those already present. (3) It may be, tardiness reflects an attitude that needs to be corrected. This is almost certainly the case if the tardiness is habitual in getting to worship and Bible study, but absent in other areas of life.

The excuse may sometimes be offered, "they are late everywhere they go." Yet the fact that some bad habit is consistently practiced is no justification for it. If I had a business with several employees, I would not overlook late arriving workers because they are always late for everything! I doubt that those who come into the assembly late come into work late every morning. Where a paycheck is involved folks seem to be motivated to be on time.

At the local church, we don't give paychecks to those who attend. But there are great promised rewards for those who take God seriously enough to be anxious and prompt to be there when it is time to offer Him our praise. Think about all of this.

By Warren E. Berkley
The Final Page
From Expository Files 6.2; February 1999