“Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil” (Eph. 5:15-16).
– Ephesians 5:15-16
Walking in the light of Christ cannot be limited to purely “religious” matters, as if it were possible to narrow the impact of the gospel and the Spirit to matters of formal worship and acts of piety. Instead, the transformation that the light of our Savior brings impacts everything in our lives. This is seen in that living in light of the gospel carries implications for how we use our time (Eph. 5:15–16). No matter what we do, we do it in time, so we cannot make the best use of our time unless the gospel touches and transforms everything that we do.
Paul urges us first of all to “look carefully” regarding how we walk. The idea is that we must give much thought to our potential choices before we make them; we are to look before we leap. Every decision that presents itself to us can result in an almost endless number of consequences, some of them good, some of them bad. Oftentimes we and others suffer the ill effects of our choices only because we have not taken the time to ponder thoughtfully the potential ramifications of our actions. When we are appropriately cautious, however, and take the time to think carefully about our choices, we lower the risk of hurting ourselves and others.
Of course, merely taking the time to think a decision through does not mean that we will choose rightly. As Paul explains, we need godly wisdom to walk in a way that pleases God and benefits other people (Eph. 5:15). Such wisdom, Scripture tells us, is grounded in the fear of the Lord, which pays heed to His Word and looks for the counsel of wise elders (Prov. 1:1–8). Learning from Scripture and from those who have been shaped by the Bible gives us the wisdom to walk carefully.
Those who walk carefully make “the best use of time, because the days are evil” (Eph. 5:16). Many commentators believe that Paul’s reference to the days as evil is a way of saying that we are living in the last days, the time of messianic woes that will occur before the end. Thus, the apostle wants us to use time wisely because Jesus is coming back soon (Rev. 22:7), and there is only a limited period in which we can serve Him and spread His gospel. The opportunities we have for ministry today may not be there tomorrow, and we should take every possible opportunity to serve in order that people from all nations might become disciples of Christ.
John Chrysostom reminds us that “the times do not belong to you” (ACCN T 8, p. 180). Even the hours of the day are not ours but are entrusted to us for wise stewardship. Let us therefore be careful with our time, endeavoring to serve the Lord well through efficient and effective service to our earthly supervisors. May we also seek to make the most of every opportunity to spread the gospel to the ends of the earth.