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What Time Is It? A Difference in Definition

Authored by Adjunct Faculty of Marketing Carly Berna (MBA '12)

Timelapse in desert mountains

Where has the time gone? 2020 has been both the slowest and fastest year all at once. It feels like it just began, but yet again, there have been times when it has felt prolonged, with the hours and days ticking by at a snail’s pace due to the change in lifestyle as a result of quarantine. The Oxford Dictionary defines “Time” as “the indefinite continued progress of existence.” But in Greek, there are two words for time, “Chronos” and “Kairos.”


Chronos is the measure of quantitative time or an exact time. The context of this Greek word is used in the Bible in 53 instances.

Here are three examples:

  • “Then Herod secretly called the magi and determined from them the exact time the star appeared.” – Matthew 2:7 
  • “Therefore Jesus said, ‘for a little while longer I am with you, then I go to Him who sent me.” – John 7:33
  • “But when the fullness of time came, God sent forth his Son, born of a woman, born under the law.” – Galatians 4:4


Kairos is defined as the right time or an opportune time. The context of this word is used in the Bible in 87 instances.

Here are three examples:

  • “And they cried out, saying, ‘What business do we have with each other, Son of God? Have You come here to torment us before the time?” – Matthew 8:29
  • “For an angel of the Lord went down at certain seasons into the pool and stirred up the water; whoever then first, after the stirring up of the water, stepped in was made well from whatever disease with which he was afflicted. – John 5:4
  • “For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly.” – Romans 5:6

There is a clear difference between these two types of time. One is based on the ticking of the clock. Is my alarm clock going to go off at 5:30 AM? Do I need to leave for that appointment at 9:00 AM? How much time is left in this meeting? The other is based on opportunities or seasons. Is this the right time for me to speak up? Is this time with my family and friends well spent? Is there a time I should make this decision? 

What time is it? It might be 3 PM in Chronos time, but in Kairos time, it might be the perfect moment for you to call a friend.

When we live only by Chronos time, living by the clock, we’re not leaving room for the Lord to speak to us about Kairos time. Each day we have the opportunity to wake up and either live according to our schedule or can live according to God’s plan. Often, our schedule is on Chronos time, but we know that God lives outside of that time. Kairos time involves waiting on the Lord and being sensitive to the Holy Spirit’s guiding, which we all need, especially during this unprecedented season. When you take the Kairos time perspective, you can see the world through a different lens. It does not depend on the clock but relies on the right moments that fit within the Lord’s plan. This view can allow for more patience and steadfastness during the moments of waiting as you align your heart and mind with God’s perfect timing.

Three ways you can live more on Kairos time:

  • Pray each day for the Lord to speak to you about the right and opportune moments throughout the day.
  • Pay attention to what is happening around you. What kind of season are you in right now? Is there something God is trying to teach you or speak to you about?
  • Journal about what you are feeling during this time. Are you in a waiting season? Maybe you are overwhelmed and busy, and you need to see your day through God’s filter of different moments He is presenting you with so that the days don’t just fly by. This reflection will help you look back on each season and see what God was doing.

Whether your days are flying by or feel like they are dragging, lean into the Lord and live on his Kairos time. I hope your spirit feels less burdened, and you feel His peace as you trust in His perfect plan.