See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil. (Ephesians 5:15–16)
Today’s big question: are you redeeming the time?
Our passage for today is one we hear quoted often, but how often do we stop to consider its meaning and actually apply it to our lives? Before we dive into these verses, let’s back up and examine the surrounding context.
In the previous chapter, Paul explained some of the wonderful blessings we have in Jesus. He stated that because of the gift we’ve been given we “should no longer walk as the rest of the Gentiles walk, in the futility of their mind” (Ephesians 4:17). Rather, he instructed us, “Walk worthy of the calling with which you were called” (Ephesians 4:1).
Paul continued this theme of “walking” into chapter 5, where he told his readers to “walk in love,” “walk as children of light,” and finally, “walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise” (Ephesians 5:2, 8, 15). The root of the Greek word for “walk” is peripateo, which refers to the way we live our lives and occupy our time.
As children of light, we are not to occupy ourselves with the works of darkness. Something I love about Paul’s epistles is that he didn’t just tell us what not to do, but he specifically stated what we should be doing instead. Indeed, if we fill all our time with what we should be doing, there is no time left to do that which we should avoid.
The works of darkness are unfruitful (Ephesians 5:11), whereas walking as children of light means being fruitful (Ephesians 5:8–9, see also Matthew 7:17). We are therefore encouraged to occupy our time with those actions that bear fruit—that which is good, righteous, and true (Ephesians 5:9). This is redeeming the time.
The word redeem contains the idea of rescuing from loss. Paul admonishes us to treat time as something precious that must be rescued from being lost to fruitlessness. And we are to do this circumspectly—that is, exactly, carefully, or diligently. To paraphrase, because the days are so evil, we must take great care to prevent any of our time from going to waste. It would be foolish to knowingly spend time on unprofitable actions.
Are you bearing fruit? Do your actions advance the gospel of Christ? Are they serving to edify a brother or communicate God’s love? If not, why are you doing them? As Christians, everything we do ought to be for the purpose of serving God and serving others.
But our flesh prevents us from doing this on our own. Bearing fruit is something we cannot accomplish by personal effort. To bear fruit, we must “be filled with the Spirit” (Ephesians 5:18).
Today’s big idea: don’t be unfruitful.
What to pray: ask God to help you “be filled with the Spirit” so that you may redeem the time with fruitful lives.