One of the things I encourage all my bible study participants to do is to read a passage in multiple translations. I recently met with a seminary student and made the same suggestion for sermon preparation. Doing this will ensure that your understanding of a passage is expanded. And sometimes, you come up with something quite unexpected!
Our passage from Ephesians today made me laugh out loud when I read it in the Contemporary English Version. I was not expecting to see something as forthright as “don’t be stupid.” As we say in the church, that will preach! How many times have you heard that said in an argument, or as your teenager is leaving the house with your car keys in his hand, or even to yourself as you are contemplating making a questionable choice? “Don’t be stupid” is wisdom for (and from!) the ages.
Paul loved the church in Ephesus, and was constantly praying and advising them in their new life as followers of Jesus. His recommendations in the fifth chapter are as relevant today as they were to the early church:
Ephesians 5 (Contemporary English Version)
15 Act like people with good sense and not like fools. 16 These are evil times, so make every minute count.
Let’s pause here and consider this. Do you think we are also living in evil times? Sadly, I think the case can be made that we are. This makes the rest of what Paul had to say even more important.
17 Don’t be stupid. Instead, find out what the Lord wants you to do. 18 Don’t destroy yourself by getting drunk, but let the Spirit fill your life. 19 When you meet together, sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, as you praise the Lord with all your heart. 20 Always use the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to thank God the Father for everything.
Find out what the Lord wants you to do. That is good advice for us today. What is God calling you to do in this evil time? What is he calling the church to do? Surely our infighting grieves his heart. What would the church look like if we would simply focus on singing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, and confine ourselves to praising the Lord with all our hearts?
God calls us today to act like people with good sense. That might require change. That might require remaining silent. That might require articulating your position in calm, even tones.
I recently had a debate with someone whose passion was so great, she could not listen to my heart as I tried to articulate my position. The sting of that is still with me. Was it worth it to compromise our relationship with strident words that landed nowhere? My position was unchanged after the conversation, but my feelings for her were. This is a good reminder that in every conversation, we should put the relationship, not the topic, first. We don’t know how many more conversations we will have with someone. Good sense dictates that we don’t squander a moment with someone we care about.
Paul is right. We need to make every minute count.
So let us take this as our marching orders and go out and seize the day….and don’t be stupid!