Summary: How to be careful as Paul commanded us.
20040822 Be careful
Therefore be careful how you walk, not as unwise men, but as wise, (16) making the most of your time, because the days are evil. (17)So then do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. (18)And do not get drunk with wine, for that is dissipation, but be filled with the Spirit, (19) speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody with your heart to the Lord; (20)always giving thanks for all things in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God, even the Father; (21)and be subject to one another in the fear of Christ.
It says “be careful”. You and I grew up hearing this simple imperative sentence. I can’t recall how many times my mom and dad told me this. My age being almost 50, even nowadays my parents still tell me this quite often. This simple phrase is actually an expression of their love. They say “be careful” because they can see the possible dangers if I am not careful and they care about me. When Paul said, “be careful” to Ephesians, I am sure he was aware of the possible danger in their spiritual life and he was very concerned about their spiritual condition.
Then what possible danger Paul was aware of when he cautioned them to be careful?
You will find the clue in the conjunction word “therefore”. In other words, you will find the reason why they had to be careful in the previous verse: “Get up, sleeper, and rise up from the dead, and the Messiah will shine on you. " Ephes. 5:14
Why they had to be careful? It was because they had to wake up from sleeping. Unless they were careful, they would be sleeping spiritually. Then verse 8 explains why they had to wake up spiritually.
Ephes. 5:8 for you were formerly darkness, but now you are light in the Lord; walk as children of light
Thus, Paul is basically saying, “Be careful” so that you may “walk as children of light.” Then, why did they have to be careful to walk as children of light? Paul answered, it was because the days were (are) evil. This is to say, we may end up walking as if we are of darkness spending our times in vain unless we as children of God take extra caution. This is true. You and I are surrounded by the evil forces and the evil spirits and we are living in evil generation. If we sleep spiritually, then this evil generation will teach us their lesson without our permission and even our recognition. Unless we put our intentional efforts in what Paul suggested here, we will learn the lesson from the world rather than teach the world and we will even live as if we are of this world regardless of our intention.
Paul adds here that ‘being careful’ also means ‘making the most of our time.’ Thus Paul says here that our time on earth is limited and we can’t afford wasting our time.
How do we have to be careful so we may walk as children of light?
Again, the transitional phrase, “so then” leads us to the three answers: In order to be careful and spend your time wisely not wasting it, there are three things that you are supposed to do.
The first is “So then do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.” (5:17)
His answer is amazing. His answer is to be careful not in what we do, but in what we understand. He says “Be careful with our understanding of the will of God. Why?
It is because our world offers so many priorities, causes, interests, etc., which compete one another to get our attention. They all attract our attention and usually they are with good causes, which makes harder to discern the will of God. While we feel there are so many things to do, for example, it is so easy to consider as a waste of time if you have to spend time to sort through the things from God’s perspective. But, Paul urges here that before we do anything we make sure we know the will of God. This is another way of saying, “find out what matters most to God in your life before you try to do in your own wisdom.”
The second answer given is “be spirit filled.” This command means “be controlled or led by the Spirit.” Paul adds two things, which could be either/ both consequences or processes of being spirit filled: 1) speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody with your heart to the Lord; 2)always giving thanks for all things in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God, even the Father;