“Therefore, be careful how you walk, not as unwise men, but as wise, making the most of the time, for the days are evil.” The apostle Paul in the letter to the Ephesians, 5:15-16
Here in this section of the letter to the Ephesians, Paul is giving practical instructions to all believers about how to live out the Christian life, how to walk as followers of Christ. The Apostle is urging us to “walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called” (4:1), and he is describing that worthy walk with this succession of commands. The specific verses of our attention right now, 5:15-16, serve both as a summary of all the instructions and as a clear exhortation of how the disciple of Jesus Christ is to use his or her time.
Time is the issue. How is the disciple to view time? How is the follower of Jesus to use their time? Since time cannot be saved, but can only be spent, how do we spend it so that we please our Master and son that we are more useful to our Master? Time is very important, for how we use our time determines whether we are walking wisely or unwisely. Let’s examine these verses carefully.
First, Paul tells us to “be careful how you walk, not as unwise men, but as wise.” Clearly there are two ways to walk: There is the walk of the unwise and, contrasted with that, there is the walk of the wise. These two walks are intentionally contrasted to each other, for they are opposed to each other. You are either walking wisely or you are walking unwisely, and there is no way to “straddle the fence.”
“Be careful” – Paul commands that the disciple “be careful” because the default behavior is to be careless. The unsaved is careless in how they walk. This is how “the Gentiles also walk” (Eph. 4:17-19) and it is a way of life that is given over to the flesh and to the desires of the flesh. Being still slaves of sin, the unsaved are controlled by their flesh and so exercise little discipline in their lives. Their life is not compelled by any great purpose, so they spend their time in futile and trivial pursuits. This is the unwise walk, the walk of no direction and no self-control.
This is contrasted with the wise walk. The walk of the wise is an obedient walk, being diligent to seek the commands of the Lord and to obey all the commands that are found. Those who walk wisely walk in the fear of the Lord, “trying to learn what is pleasing to the Lord (Eph. 5:10).” The disciple who would walk wisely does not participate in the unfruitful deeds of darkness (Eph. 5:11), but in contrast lives a disciplined and self-controlled life. The Lord has called us out of the idleness of wasting away in the marketplace (Matthew 20) and has called us into full time service (Matthew 4:19; Acts 1:8; Luke 9:62) and has given us a purpose for our lives, a purpose worth living for and, if necessary, a purpose worth dying for.
Next, after commanding how we should walk, the Apostle says that we should be “making the most of the time.” As we said before, the issue is time. Once used, time can never be retrieved. Time cannot be saved or slowed down. Since, then, time can only be spent, the wise disciple will “make the most of the time.” The disciple is governed and controlled by a mindset of usefulness and of mission. At its longest, our time here is short. We are but a mist that vanishes away, so we must channel our energies and we must be careful stewards of our choices so that we are using our resources for Kingdom purposes. The task is urgent; the time is short; choices must be made and discipline must be exercised so that we make the most of the time.
Finally, Paul says that the days are evil. This is increasingly obvious in our immediate culture in America, but the Bible makes clear that the entire age between Jesus’ ascension and His soon-coming return is an evil age. These days are evil and they are marked by bitter opposition to Christ and to the kingdom of God. This world has been given over into the hands of the “prince of the power of the air (2:2)” and since that is the case, then our wise walk will be opposed and attacked by the world and the flesh and the devil.
APPLICATION: Examine your life and see if you are being careful how you walk. Are you walking wisely or unwisely? Are you intentionally focusing your energies into Kingdom activities? There is all of eternity to rest; now is the time to proclaim the name of Jesus. Are you being careful how you walk? Are you making the most of the time? Start today to focus your available resources into one small, narrow Kingdom channel.
SDG rmb 3/5/2018