Ephesians 5:15-17: Redeeming the Time
Be very careful, then, how you live—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, NIV)
Does our efficiency-oriented society actually follow this scripture well? Our society is obsessed with schedules and deadlines. Thus, when we look at this verse, we are tempted to believe that we follow it well. The King James Version starts Ephesians 5:16, "Redeeming the time." In this verse, "time" is the translation for the word kairos. It often means a specific point in time such as season, moment, or even an opportunity. Another word translated "time" in the New Testament is chronos. It has the idea of length of time or long period of time. It is has the idea of measured time such as time on the clock, thus, the word, chronometer.
In our society, we are obsessed with the clock, not opportunity. We often live by a tightly planned schedule. We see unexpected events that interfere with our plans as obstacles to overcome. Our society sees probability and chance as the source of these obstacles. As Christians, we need to ask ourselves, "Who controls the circumstances?"
Circumstances that interfere with people's plans usually cause frustration, but for the Christian we should welcome circumstance as God's intervention (Romans 8:28-30; 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18). Yes, we should make plans, but most of all we should desire that they conform to God's will. When we seek to carry out our plans, God is the one who determines their outcome (Proverbs 16:9; 19:21; 20:24; 21:30-31; Psalm 37:23-24; Jeremiah 10:23-24).
Not only should we welcome God's interfering with our own plans, but we should also look for the opportunities that He gives us. We do not know exactly when the next opportunity will come, but we can be prepared to use it. In the first century, the parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:30-37) dealt with the obsession with ceremonial cleanliness. If the man were dead and they touched him, the priest and Levite would be ceremonially unclean for seven days (Numbers 19:11-13) and unable to perform their duties at the temple. This parable applies better to us from the standpoint of schedules. For example, one attempt to paraphrase this parable into modern terms exchanges the priest and Levite for a pastor and Sunday School teacher hurrying to a church function. They ignore the person in need because they don't want to be late. Although the reasons for ignoring opportunity may vary, the result is the same. As the Samaritan, we need to take the opportunity to help those hurting around us.
On the other hand, if God controls all circumstances, why can't we flip a coin or draw straws to determine what God wants? Ephesians 5:15 starts this passage that we should live wisely and not unwisely. Ephesians 5:17 parallels unwise with foolish (not knowing, ignorant) and wise with understanding (having insight into) God's will. God desires more than for us to follow Him blindly. He wants us to develop a character that understands His will, a character that desires what God desires with the compassion and concerns that God has. He is shaping our character to be like Christ's character (Romans 8:29).