I would call a man a fool who threw away jewels. I would call a man a fool who threw away money. I would call a man a bigger fool who threw away an hour. There's a world to be won. There's a church to be built. There's a God to be glorified and there's no time for triteness and there's not time for meaningless activity.” – John MacArthur, teaching from Ephesians 5:16
After telling the Ephesian believers to be imitators of God in v. 1, Paul then told them to walk as children of light and not as children of disobedience. Their lives would be marked by a constant putting to death of their sin and a constant submission to the goodness and righteousness of God revealed in Scripture. Regarding those around them, they were to be bold and ready to lovingly reprove those who were blinded by darkness.
Now, Paul gave another warning regarding their lifestyle. Paul’s admonition to the believers this time was that they should “walk circumspectly.” This was a call to full awareness in every area of their lives. There was a constant danger of falling into sin, and especially when confronting others about their sins, temptation was increased. So after encouraging the believers to engage those around them with the truth, Paul advises believers to be on guard against inadvertent foolishness.
Continuing the warning, Paul wrote, “not as fools, but as wise, redeeming the time.” According to Paul there is a direct connection between wisdom and the use of time. It is a uniform principle that none can escape. Time is the most expensive commodity, but many people foolishly spend it on the cheapest things. If there a way that billionaires could turn their profits into years, they would endeavor to live for thousands of years. But as it stands, the biological clock runs out for most around 70 years, and no amount of money can add any more time to that.
Knowing then that every second brings you closer to your moment of death, what will you do with the fleeting moments you have left? I was recently on a flight sitting next to a woman who was intently playing Candy Crush on her IPad. When another passenger commented to her that his own wife loved to play that game, she replied with a response that is revelatory of our current entertainment-gripped culture’s view of time versus money. She bragged that she has played this game for a few years now, and has made it to an incredibly high level without ever spending a dime of her own money to buy any upgrades to beat any of the levels.
She explained that if ever she gets to a difficult level, she is willing to spend the next couple of weeks trying to beat that level on her own rather than spend the money to beat it. I’m certainly not advocating spending money on frivolous apps like Candy Crush, but I am pointing out that she viewed the hours she spent on Candy Crush as a cheaper exchange than $.99 for the upgrade. What a misguided perspective. Time is fleeting. In its abundance we find ourselves lazily negligent in its use. However, Paul explains that to waste time is not the way of wisdom, rather it is the way of foolishness.
Finally, Paul just outright says, “be not unwise.” Don’t allow yourself to get duped by the mind-numbing wastes of our day. To modify the words of Jesus to our modern context, “What shall it profit a man if he shall defeat every level of Flappy Bird and lose his own soul?” There are things of eternal value that we must endeavor to pursue. May God help us to war against foolishness by becoming self-controlled, Spirit-disciplined, wise servants of God.
Reflect: Do you walk as the wise or as a fool? What is the app or device that causes you to most often commit the sin of foolish time neglect?