Be Wise, Not Unwise

Bob RoaneLoving and Trusting God, Wise living

Be very careful, then, how you live (and walk), 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. (Ephesians 5:15-17)

A Classic Film

Many of you know the movie, “It’s a Wonderful Life,” made in 1946. It’s a fictional story that celebrates Christ-like virtues and one man’s contribution to his community. The main character, George Bailey, played by Jimmy Stewart, is the manager of a local bank. He’s a good man and he helps many families during the Great Depression (1929–1939).

When trouble comes into George’s life, he wishes he’d never been born. Then an angel from God comes to show George what his community would’ve been like if he never lived to serve others. His mother would have been a poor widow, running a ramshackle boarding house. His Uncle Billy would have been in an insane asylum. His wife, Mary, would have been lonely and un-cared for. And his hometown, instead of being a place of righteousness, peace, and joy, would have been a dark city of bars, gambling, and immorality. The angel says, “Here’s what the world would have been without you.” Without George’s life and work to fight off evil, his city would have fallen into chaos and decay.

The movie reminds us that Jesus Christ doesn’t take His followers away to heaven yet. He left us here to be the salt of the earth and the light of the world.1 And this planet would be a thousand times worse without us, the Lord’s people, making a difference. We are left here to fight moral badness, beginning in ourselves. And Ephesians 5:15-17 help us see how to be salt and light.

Be Very Careful, Then, How You Live (and Walk), Not as Unwise But as Wise (Verse 15)

John Calvin says we ought to live as if we are on stage in a crowded theater. That doesn’t mean pretending, but it means remembering that we really are living before the Lord’s eyes and before the watching world. Coram Deo in Latin is translated “in the face of God” which means Christians live in the presence of, under the authority of, and to the honor and glory of God.2 Jesus says: “Let your light shine like the sun before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Heavenly Father.”3

My shoe polish comes with an applicator to get the polish out of the bottle, rub it all over the shoes, and work it into the leather. That’s what we are supposed to do with Bible truth, beloved. It’s not good to leave the polish in the bottle and talk about how great it is. We are to trust and obey God’s word.

Ruth Harms Calkins’ children’s song goes like this:

Do you know, O Christian, you’re a sermon in shoes?
Jesus calls upon you, to spread the gospel news,
So walk it, and talk it, So live it, and give it,
So teach it, and preach it, So know it, and show it, a sermon shoes.

Live Wisely, Not Unwisely

The worst thing we can do is actively pursue wickedness. God hates sinful pride, lying, violence, wicked schemes and deeds, and stirring up conflict.4 But Jesus hates lukewarmness too.5 The Lord created us as wonderful human beings, a little lower than angels, capable of loving, caring, serving, and helping. But we waste so much time. The Lord intends us to grow into the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.6 To be like trees planted by rivers of water.7 God the Father, Son, and Spirit has saved us to treat others as we’d like to be treated ourselves. So that we love the rest of God’s people, and our neighbors, and even our enemies, imitating the Lord. But sometimes we shuffle through our daily routines mindlessly, failing to consider what really matters to God.

Beloved, we are to follow Christ and be especially careful around unbelievers, so that we bless them and not lead them astray. Paul wrote Colossians the same time as Ephesians. And he says in Colossians: “Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders. Make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.8

You’ve seen walls with broken glass cemented on top to keep people off. But a cat can walk across it fine. She watches deliberately where she puts every step and doesn’t get hurt. God says that’s the kind of alertness and cautiousness we need, treading carefully. It’s the opposite of rushing ahead foolishly and following the crowd into sin and danger.

Wisdom Is a Big Issue in Ephesians

God says He has lavished the riches of His grace on us with all wisdom and understanding. And we are to keep on asking Him to give us the Holy Spirit of wisdom and revelation to know Jesus more  and follow Him better. Our whole lives are to display God’s many-sided wisdom.9

Wisdom is the practical art and skill of Christ-like living. James says: “The wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure. Then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial, and sincere. We are to be peacemakers, not troublemakers who sow in peace and reap a harvest of righteousness.10

Christian wisdom means behaving like Jesus in everyday life in all our situations. God says in Ephesians that we are to walk worthy of our calling in Christ. To walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave Himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. For we were once darkness, but now we are light in the Lord. Therefore we are to live as children of light.11 Now Ephesians 5:15 says: “Be very careful, then, how you live (and walk) not as unwise but as wise.”

Prayer: Lord, make us people of understanding, insight, perceptiveness, and good sense, because the world needs us. We can’t undo the consequences of many of our actions. We can’t undo the hurt our words and deeds cause others. So help us. Make us the same Christ-like ways, whether we’re alone or with others. The same at work, and church, and play. The same whether we are with Christians or unbelievers. The same Jesus-like ways in good and bad times, on days of peace and days of pain. Help us for Christ’s sake. Amen.

To be continued.

Notes (various Bible translations): 1 Matt 5:13-14.     2 See articles at     3 Matt 5:16, 13:43.     4 Prov 6:16-19.     5 Rev 3:14-22.     6 Eph 4:13.     7 Psalm 1:3.     8 Col 4:5-6.     9 Eph 1:8,17, 3:10.     10 James 3:17-18.     11 Eph 4:1, 5:2,8.