Ephesians 5:15-17 Be very careful, then, how you live–not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is.
Talk about a familiar passage! I use 21-33 every time I do marital or premarital counseling, and 19 and 20 are a dearly loved song that I’ve translated into Japanese. Verse 18 is of course frequently quoted both in relation to alcohol and to being filled with the Holy Spirit. That leaves these three verses, and they too are dearly loved, and for good reason. We have an incredible capacity for foolishness! The common term of “sophomore” comes to mind. We generally use it to indicate a 2nd year student in a 4 year academic course, but by its Greek roots it means “wise fool.” In other words, they know a little, but don’t know how much they don’t know. That describes us very well! We need to be reminded of how foolish we are by nature, but life has a way of doing that, if we’re paying any attention. This is a universal issue, and it certainly applies to the life of faith. YOLO is an acronym that has been popular in recent years: You Only Live Once. That’s certainly better than belief in reincarnation, thinking you’ll have infinite opportunities to get it right, but it’s often used as an excuse for reckless or otherwise foolish behavior. Paul is expressing much that thought, but from a far wiser perspective. In other words, we need to recognize the opportunities God gives us and make full use of them, doing His will on His schedule for His glory. It’s interesting to see that Paul too thought he lived in “an evil age.” We are surrounded by the grace and love of God, but at the same time we are in the age when the devil is rampant, doing all the destruction he can. That age won’t come to an end until the return of Christ as King, so until then, we need to be wise! God gives us all opportunities to share the good news of His kingdom, and otherwise express His love and grace to those around us. We never know when a particular opportunity is unique and will never come again, so we need to be sensitive, and as the Japanese expression puts it, “bring the opportunity to life.” Someone’s eternal life might well depend on it.
Of course this applies to me. I have been a “sophomore” more times than I could possibly count! I have a high IQ, but that’s not at all the same as being wise. As Proverbs famously puts it, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.” (Proverbs 9:10) Again as James says, “If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him.” (James 1:5) There is no genuine wisdom apart from God, regardless of how much knowledge I might accumulate. I feel I miss many opportunities to share Christ and otherwise serve God, so I need to keep pressing in to be more sensitive and obedient. It always feels good to realize I’ve met a divine appointment!
Father, I do want to live wisely by Your standards. Help me not gauge things from a humanistic perspective, but always be submitted to You to recognize Your plan in each situation, indeed bringing every opportunity to life and making the most of it, for Your glory. Thank You. Praise God!