Any day now, here in the Northeast, we’re going to begin punctuating our goodbyes with a phrase that would seem out of place any other time of the year. As the snow starts to fall, the icy roads and sidewalks will come with them. People will start telling each other to be careful out there.
We approach the sidewalk a bit differently when there is ice on it. No longer can you casually walk around with your chin up and your mind on different things. No, you have to move cautiously. Your head pivots up and down as you scan your path. Nobody wants to fall. It’s costly. We could miss work. We could suffer a long-term injury. And to be honest, it hurts.
Similarly, the apostle Paul encourages Christians in Ephesians 5:15 to be careful about how we walk. He says, in effect, be careful out there. Following Jesus requires continual and careful attention to how we are living. And while careless walking in the snow could bring undesirable results, careless living as a Christian could be worse. Because at the core of who we are as Christians is a desire, a burden, a yearning, to please and honor God. Our careful attention to how we are living corresponds directly with our love for God.
In verse 15, we have the command to walk carefully. Give careful and continual attention to how you live. Okay, how so? In what way? Paul goes on to say, in verse 15, “not as unwise but as wise.”
The simplest contrast between the unwise and the wise, biblically speaking, is between those who build their life and identity upon what the Bible says and those who don’t. If we hear and heed God’s Word, then this is considered wisdom. If we do not, if we choose to reject it, then it is considered unwise.
But what does this wise walk look like? One of the ways is to keep an eye on our time. In verse 16, the apostle writes, “making the best use of the time, because the days are evil.” In effect, Paul says, don’t waste your time, but make the best use of it. Some other translations say to redeem the time. It means to buy back the time. It means to utilize time for the point it was given. Instead of wasting time, we are to use it wisely.
Why? Why should we be careful to redeem our time? And why does this reflect the type of wise living that Christians are to emulate?
1. Because time is finite
Think of the time allotted to you in life. While you don’t know how much you have in total, you do know that you have less of it today than you did yesterday.
Time evaporates quickly and steadily from us. James tells us that our lives are like a vapor, a mist that is here today and gone tomorrow (James 4:14). Like the steam that comes off your morning coffee initially but slowly fades away. So too are our days. Time is finite. It’s short.
Because time is finite, it helps show us how valuable it is. Some people value having a lot of money, but what good is money if you don’t have the time to enjoy it? Time is the unseen, quiet oxygen that allows us to breathe in the joys of life.
2. Because time is given
The Bible speaks of stewardship. Everything we have is a gift—and time is no different—given to us for our good and God’s glory.
We are not the owners, but the ones given these gifts to use them wisely. Therefore, we are to steward not squander our time.
3. Because time is wasted
Wasting time is a perpetual problem for us. And it indicates a lack of wisdom. It’s a characteristic of this fallen world.
If we are called to use our time well, to steward it rather than squandering it, then we need to consider the time leeches that we use to waste time.
How do you waste time?
Perhaps it’s laziness?
We don’t notice it, but what we do is often tainted with laziness and if we’re honest selfishness. We act like we are the center of our universe and spend our time in a way that we want to with minimal regard for what God wants or what others might need. Laziness says my time is my own; this is folly. Stewardship says my time is a gift from God; this is wisdom.
Busyness is a cousin to laziness and no more noble than its relative. It is a modern-day plague. Even if you reject laziness, you may swing to the opposite pole of busyness, filling your every moment with activity and judging yourself by the number of tasks completed.
Today you practically expect that when you ask a friend how he is doing, he will reply, “Busy! So busy!”
Yet busyness must not be confused with diligence, the number of activities with meaningful accomplishments. God has given you a short little life and expects that, of all the great things you could do, you will identify and pursue the few that matter most. Because there is only so much you can do, diligence and redeeming the time involves saying “no” to a million good opportunities to focus entirely on a few excellent ones. (Challies)
Maybe, it’s distraction.
The infinity pool is a term some productivity experts have given to our streams of information and entertainment. Never before have we had some opportunities to be tantalized with new and engaging information or entertainment—and it’s seemingly endless.
It is impossible to get to the end of the social media feed.
The news keeps refreshing.
The TV keeps talking.
The podcast keep coming.
Netflix has another movie cued up.
YouTube will play another video.
The pool is infinite. And we often mindlessly dive into these infinity pools and when we do climb back up the ladder and come out? An hour later? Maybe two? Perhaps even more. Where did the time go?
We are distracting ourselves to death.
Then Paul gives a reason in verse 16: because the days are evil.
Because the Days Are Evil
Paul is giving us an intel briefing on the day and age we live.
He reminding us that this world is not our own. The kingdom of God has broken in. Jesus the King is eclipsing this world order. But, the god of this world, the Devil, is still in office. He is still ruling and influencing—his administration of belittling God’s glory and doing great injury to people.
So because of the evil that characterizes the day or the age, believers are to buy back their time out of its slavery to the god of this world. We do this day after day, moment by moment, in the practical decisions of life
This is why Jonathan Edwards wrote in his resolutions, “Resolved: Never to lose one moment of time, but to improve it in the most profitable way I possibly can.”
Being careful how we live means we give attention to our time. When we think about what’s at stake, this is something that should rise to the top of our daily list of tasks to complete.