The transformed life is a life of opposites. After conversion there are many things that a believer will do that are the opposite of the things that they did before. As Paul continues his descriptive imperatives of the Christian life, he highlights a couple of these opposites.
Instead of stealing, a transformed Christian will work hard so that he can give to those in need. The Christian life isn’t about accumulation; it is about alleviation. It isn’t opulence; it is about benevolence. It isn’t about increasing our own comfort, it is about laboring to comfort others. This is why stealing is so wrong. In stealing, we become self-servers who seek to use the things of others to gratify ourselves, instead of using our things to bless and help others.
Stealing is also a fruit sin. It is most often a manifestation of other sins in the life of the one who commits it. Greed and covetousness are perhaps the most common roots that manifest themselves in the act of stealing. At times, addictions lead to insatiable and expensive appetites that can only be filled through stealing. Even anger and revenge can end in stealing from someone else.
When those who call themselves “Christian” live in ways of greed, addiction, or vengeance, they are not living according to the path that God has clearly prescribed. Instead of their lifestyle revealing a new nature inside of them, they reveal that perhaps there has never been a change. Through stealing, they demonstrate that they more than likely have never been converted. Many non-Christians are appalled at the abuses of these self-proclaimed Christians. They will say things like, “I know a Christian who was the dirtiest crook that I have ever known.” The reality is that those who are living in ways that are inconsistent with the transformative power of the gospel have no reason to use the term “Christian.” They don’t act like Christ.
Here in Ephesians, Paul teaches that those who truly are Christian will labor to earn so that they can give and care for those around them. They seek to share the truth of God with all the love that they can muster. They are not greedy; they are not vengeful; rather, they are loving; and they are forgiving. The Christian life is a life of opposites. It is a life that is filled with attitudes and actions that are the opposite of the way they were before.
As Paul continues, he explains another contrasting truth of the Christian life. Those who used to speak in ways of filth and perversion have been changed into grace and truth speakers. A few years ago, I personally knew a man who called himself a Christian and was known by most of our coworkers as the biggest pervert in the office. It was a horrible thing as many non-Christians told me that if that was what a Christian was like, they certainly didn’t want to be around Christians.
The Christian’s mouth will be transformed. In the King James Version, the translators used the phrase, “that which is good to the use of edifying” to describe the type of speech that the converted use. This phrase has the idea of “building up, or encouraging.” Christians will not be marked by their quick wit, or their ability to turn a phrase (even comically) into a rude or degrading idea. Rather, in the love of Jesus himself, Christians seek to encourage and build up and love those around them with their lives and their very words. This is what the Christian life should look like self-less encouragement. So how do you compare?
Reflect: How does the Holy Spirit help the believer obey the commandments, “thou shalt not steal,” and “thou shalt not bear false witness”?