When you read how Scripture defines a fool, who first comes to mind?
For me, it’s always someone else.
I don’t consider myself a fool, at least not very high up there on the “foolishness index” Scripture provides in the book of Proverbs.
But reading Ephesians 5:15-21 tells me something different. Paul says, “Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise” (15). This warns me that without intentionality to walk in wisdom, I can quickly drift toward foolish living.
Paul’s commands in that passage are challenging.
They tell me I’m not wise by default.
They tell me that I can look wise and accomplished to the world and the church; but to God, I’m, well, a fool at times.
While Paul doesn’t provide an exhaustive description of what foolishness looks like, he does share three key elements of what it looks like to live wisely. Wise believers are to make “the best use of time” (16), “understand what the will of the Lord is” (17), and “be filled with the Spirit” (18).
In my time studying this passage, I felt a special bite of conviction when I flipped the positive commands into negative descriptions of what a foolish Christian looked like.
1. You don’t care about wasting time.
If you surf the internet without aim for hours on end, constantly browse your Twitter feed, or watch TV like the average American (five hours daily) — you might be a foolish Christian.
Life is a vapor (James 4:14). Each hour wasted is an hour that you can and will never get back. Wise Christians, like Moses, pray for God to teach them to number their days to gain a heart of wisdom (Psalm 90:12). Observing our distracted society gives Moses’ prayer special relevance today. Numbering our days involves numbering our hours — and even minutes — that can be easily lost without intentionality and setting the right priorities.
Why are we to make the best use of time? We live in evil days (Ephesians 5:16). Our enemy is on the prowl and wants us to waste our lives and effectiveness for Christ. An estimated 150,000 people die each day, many of whom do not know the One True God.
Christian, make it your aim in life to make the most of your time in these evil days. You’re a part of a spiritual war and can advance the cause of Christ by stewarding your God-given time on earth wisely. Don’t be a fool.
2. You don’t seek to understand the will of the Lord.
God’s will is not some magical lock-box we only unlock by luck, incantation, or owning a certain number of Petra CDs. God wants us to know his will for us; that’s why he has revealed it to us in the Scriptures. We know what to believe, how to live, and what our part is in God’s mission on earth through the Scriptures. They contain everything we need for righteous living and for bearing fruit — everything (2 Timothy 3:16-17). Through prayerful obedience to the Word and a faithful pursuit of Christ, we can know and follow God’s will for our lives and grow in his wisdom (Romans 12:1-2; John 14:21; Psalm 19:7).
Foolishness comes by neglecting Scripture and prayer, avoiding commitment to a local church, or simply by making no effort to discern how to live a life that pleases the Lord (Ephesians 5:10).
Christian, don’t be a fool. Understand the will of the Lord and live accordingly.
3. You don’t live by the Spirit.
Believers are powerless to live the way God wants us to and to accomplish what he has for us if we don’t let God live through us by his Spirit. Foolish Christians may be living by their own power either because of ignorance (they just aren’t aware of how to walk by the Spirit) or by choice (they may be mad at God or unwilling to repent for their sin).
According to Paul, the Spirit-controlled Christian is characterized by:
…addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart, giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ. (Ephesians 5:19-21)
This means that, from both our hearts and lips, there will be a natural flow of Scriptural truths and deep thankfulness to others and to the Lord.
Not living by the Spirit may mean Christians feel far from God, have trouble getting in the Scriptures (John 14:26), struggle with assurance (1 John 3:24), lack guidance (Romans 8:14), live defeated by sin (Romans 8:13), and lack power in evangelism (Acts 1:8).
Christian, live by the Spirit. Make melody in your heart toward God through singing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs. Make your heart happy in God as you read Scripture and remember his faithfulness to you in the past, his provision for you in the present, and the future grace you will receive when Christ returns. Give thanks to God for all he has done for you in Christ. Plug your life into the divine power source that makes living the Christian life not only possible, but filled with joy.
The good news, if you have found yourself a foolish Christian at times, there’s still hope. The foolish Christian who repents by taking Ephesians 5:16-18 to heart will lay a solid foundation for a life filled with wisdom.
My hope is that you would take this message to heart and examine your life. You’d be a fool not to.