“There is a time to seek out and a time to give up as lost; a time to protect and a time to throw away.”
Once again Rashi interprets this verse in conjunction with the people of Israel and I would call your attention to the Messianic significance of this language. In Luke 15, Jesus tells a series of three parables about lost things…a lost sheep, a lost coin, and a lost son. It could be argued that as you move into Luke 16, there is a fourth parable in this series — that of a lost steward, but that is a conversation for another day.
The point of these parables is the extent that the owner will go to when it comes to preserving that which is entrusted to him or to her. What is interesting about the parables is that when it comes to the parables of the lost sheep and the lost coin, in both cases, the owner goes to great lengths to seek those things out and to intentionally bring them back with the rest of the items. Yet, when it comes to the lost son (and the lost steward), the father (rich man) does not go out actively seeking to bring the persons back, but refrains, instead waiting for the person to come to their senses and return to him. In other words, there is a time to seek out that which has been lost and a time to refrain from seeking — in many cases, to trust the hand of God to return your loved one to you.
Likewise, then, there is a time to guard things and protect them while there is also a time to discard things. In a world of hoarders, there is obvious application to this, but remember that there is a conceptual parallelism between these two couplets. Thus, if the first deals with redemption, so should the second. And indeed, when one looks at the scope of Biblical history, this is exactly how we see God working in the lives of his people. When they are obedient, he draws them close; when they are disobedient (usually pursuing idols), he scatters them from his presence. One need only peruse the book of Judges or the periods of exile to see this reality worked out in ancient Israel and to read the letters to the seven churches in Asia Minor to see the same worked out in the Christian churches of John’s day.
The challenge for us, in daily application, is to understand what to hold onto and what to let go…and not so much with “stuff,” but with relationships, jobs, activities, etc… All of these things are part of the human experience, but not all things or friends are for all seasons of our lives. As I think back across my life, I am grateful for the friends and mentors that God brought into my sphere of experience. Many of these people not only walked through very difficult or challenging times with me but many also kept me out of trouble during my rebellious years. And again, for them and for their actions, I am eternally grateful. Yet, while the gratefulness is eternal, many of these friendships were for a season and we have both moved on in different directions — not because of any break in the friendship, but simply because in God’s timing, the season had come to an end. And who knows, if God chooses to alter trajectories in life, perhaps those friendships will be rekindled. There are a few of those relationships, though, that have proven to transcend seasons and be more permanent. These are the ones you must especially guard, protect, and treasure. Discerning between these two categories is always a challenge, but indeed is an important task in life.