As we get older it’s amazing how much more we become like children. Take the simple task of walking, for example. My mother is 85 and it’s the norm for me to help steady her steps when she comes for a visit. She has a habit of shuffling along rather than lifting her toes up, so I walk beside her and say over and over, “heel, toe, heel toe” so she doesn’t forget. In some ways, living the Christian life requires that kind of constant reminder.
In Ephesians 5:15-17 the Apostle Paul says, “Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time because the days are evil.” These two verses give us a lot to think about as we set out in a new year of living for the Lord.
To live wisely involves looking carefully at the smallest details around us. It means that we actively direct our minds in a contemplative gaze of our surroundings. That’s one of the hardest things for me to do.
Because my mind tends to operate on one channel at a time, I can easily tune out noises, people or anything else that would break my concentration. I can’t tell you how many times my children wanted to get my attention by saying, “Dad...Dad?” and finally shouting, “Jeff!” My body might be in the room, but I’m not. There’s a lot to be said for simply being mentally present, especially at home with our families.
We also see in these verses that this is how wise people live in contrast to the unwise. Paul begins the chapter by calling us to imitate God, who is the source of all wisdom. By contrast, the unwise are the people carried along by sexual immorality, idolatry, foolish talk and a spirit of ingratitude. Wise walking is simply being like God – holy, thankful, and filled with all that is good, right, and true.
We see the prime example of wise living in the life of Jesus – the personification of wisdom. Even though He experienced the same struggles and temptations we have, His life was one of total commitment to the will of God the Father. Right before He stooped to wash the disciples’ feet, the Apostle John tells us that Jesus knew He had come from God and was going back to God. At first glance, that seems like a random comment. But it forms the entire basis of what He was about to do. Jesus’ consciousness of His relationship to God and of an eternal union with Him was at the center of His thinking as He gave us this vivid model of servant leadership. If we never lose sight of our ultimate destination and our soon returning King, we’ll be able to exercise wisdom in this life in ways that otherwise would be impossible.
Wise living also involves the way we utilize our time, especially in light of the evil that surrounds us. Paul writes, “making the best use of the time.” Other translations use the word “redeem” to convey the idea. When we redeem time, we’re buying it back with the currency of our own zeal and drive in order to use it for the things of God. That kind of thinking doesn’t happen accidentally. Our natural way of thinking is to assume that we’ll always have tomorrow, until suddenly tomorrow doesn’t come.
The hard truth is that evil is all around us, not only in the flood of immorality that’s part of our culture, but in the simple fact that sickness, disability, and any number of factors could keep us from doing the most good we can. If there’s something the Lord has been leading you to do, then do it while you can because one day you might not have the strength or resources available to you now.
Being conscious of these things would be impossible if it wasn’t for the grace of God and the work of the Holy Spirit. Ask the Lord to remind you of these things and to help you spot the pitfalls and distractions that wait around every corner. Lastly, believe His promises that He gives wisdom generously to all who ask in faith (James 1:5-6).