Healthy, Wealthy, and Wise: Living Ethically in the Light of the Bible
Luke 1:57-66; Ephesians 5:15-21; Psalm 119:97-104; 2 Kings 7-8
This section of Ephesians is an important summary passage about what it means to live the Christian life. Paul introduces the topic in the first few words, and then expands on what it means. The introductory phrase literally means ‘Watch carefully how you walk.’ The focus here, and throughout the passage, is on our day-to-day involvement with God. He mentions understanding the Lord’s will, but this is about walking with God on a daily basis, which will have an impact when we face major crises.
Here, Paul points to three things that should characterise the Christian walk. He arranges them in a ‘not this, but this’ pattern: not unwise, but wise; not foolish, but understanding the Lord’s will; not drunk, but filled with the Spirit. Two things stand out here for me. We are to be actively involved in examining our lives and we must use our time wisely. In our day, there is a tendency to drift along, reacting to whatever happens. How much time do we spend ‘turned off’? We want to get our minds off things, and just zone out in front of the TV, computer or shop windows. We walk aimlessly through life, but Paul reminds us here that life has purpose and meaning. We need to pay attention to where we are going, and use our time wisely. If we don’t, the days are evil and will devour our time and energy down meaningless dead-ends.
The alternative is to understand the Lord’s will and be filled with the Spirit. We are to actively focus on God and allow the Holy Spirit to characterise our lives to a greater and greater degree. We are to be actively involved in this, but God is the one doing the work in our lives. One way we do this is highlighted in Psalm 119. Meditating on God’s Word will make us wise, give us understanding and insight, and keep us on the right path. We must read and reflect on God’s Word, but he is the one who enlightens our hearts to the love and wisdom therein (Ephesians 1:17-18) so that we taste their sweetness (Psalm 119:103). That is part of being filled with the Spirit.
The result is highlighted in Ephesians 5:18-21. The structure here is important in their interpretation. In English, these verses are often given as five sentences. This gives the impression that they are a list of commands. In the original Greek, however, these verses are one sentence. It starts with two commands: do not get drunk; be filled with the Spirit. This is followed by five participles, suggesting that these are the results of being filled by the Spirit. Be filled with the Holy Spirit, speaking to one another in these ways, singing, making music in your hearts, giving thanks, and submitting to one another. Our focus should be on the Lord and being filled with the Holy Spirit on and on-going basis, and then these things will characterise our lives.
Note that there are both mental and emotional aspects. The music is to arise from our hearts, which in biblical terms is the centre of our whole being. This includes our minds, our emotions and our wills. Everything about us wants to express joy to the Lord. One way we see this in with thankfulness. This is not the superficial thanks we might give before meals, or a flippant ‘thank God’ we might express when something bad is avoided. This is a deep-seated thankfulness for all that we have, our gifts and talents, even if we are not the best; the beauty of a flower or a sunset, even if we are on our way home from a hard day’s work. It is being thankful for the people in our lives, even if they are not perfect. Such a perspective on life is truly attractive. It begins by paying attention to how we live, and seeking to live life God’s way, empowered by his Holy Spirit.