Question: “What does the Bible say about being late or lateness?”
Answer: There is no commandment in the Bible that says, “thou shall not be late, ever” so it’s not as simple as one Scripture reference to determine God’s view on tardiness. Everyone has been late to something at some point, often due to unforeseen or unavoidable circumstances. But if someone is habitually late and unconcerned about being on time, especially if that person professes to be a Christian, then scriptural principles do apply. As with all things God looks at the heart, “For the Lord does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7).
For one thing, continual lateness does not express love for others. Forcing others to wait for us time after time is simply rude. Christians are to love one another and love our enemies as well, and “love is not rude” (1 Corinthians 13:5). When others perceive that we are unloving and unconcerned about them, our reputations as Christians suffer. “A good name is better than precious ointment, And the day of death than the day of one’s birth” (Ecclesiastes 7:1). A good name, a good reputation is important as a Christian. This means that we should be known as people of our word, trustworthy and dependable and not be known as always late, slothful, or unconcerned about others. Our actions as Christians point back at Christ. Do they glorify Him? Do they bring Him honor? “And whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men” (Colossians 3:23).
Furthermore, as Christians we never want to cause someone else to sin. Constantly being forced to wait for someone can be very aggravating, especially to those who make an effort to be on time. Minor irritation can very easily become anger. Anger is sin and we are never to be the cause of someone else’s sin. “Jesus said to his disciples: ‘Things that cause people to sin are bound to come, but woe to that person through whom they come’” (Luke 17:1).
Waiting can not only be frustrating, but it causes unnecessary stress and wasted time for the person that has to wait. Christians are exhorted by Paul to “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves” (Philippians 2:3). The perpetually late person does not consider others’ time as more important than their own. Most habitual late-comers are concerned only with themselves. Continually being late does not communicate a zeal or diligence in serving Christ by loving others as He loves us. It also does not communicate faithfulness or trustworthiness.
For the person who is habitually late, there is hope. For many, it is simply a matter of bad habits built up over time. Sometimes it’s just a matter of changing those habits to be more aware of time, planning far ahead, and leaving ample time for the unexpected. Recognizing the spiritual impact on others is the first step in understanding the importance of reversing the bad habit of tardiness. If we are motivated by love for others and a desire to maintain a good reputation for Christ’s sake, then prayer for wisdom and help is the next step. God has promised wisdom to all who ask for it (James 1:5) and He is never far away from those who call upon His power for godly living.
Recommended Resource: Cure for the Common Life: Living in Your Sweet Spot by Max Lucado.