We are about two-thirds of the way through a men’s breakfast and bible study on Ephesians. Each week, I learn something new about the Christian faith, and I keep looking for ways to share insights that are found in that setting with others. Today is no different.
This morning, we read Ephesians 5:3-20. That’s the bit where Paul writes about sexual immorality and how Christians should walk as children of light, exposing the “unfruitful works of darkness.” We talked a good deal about sex this morning, but, in the midst of that conversation, someone asked a question that led me to a new place.
“Paul tells us to take full advantage of our time (vs. 16), which I understand, but then he goes on to say, ‘because the days are evil,’ and I don’t get that. Why does he say that?” Great question. I didn’t know the answer, and that’s what I love most about bible studies like this one—mutual discovery and edification. This is a conversation—a back and forth—from which all of us can learn.
As we thought out loud about it, we remembered a little bit of what Ephesus was like in Paul’s day. There were lots of pagan temples and dodgy religious practices. People enjoyed the company of cultic prostitutes, who offered a mixture of physical pleasure and religious experience. We wondered together what it would have been like to live as a minority Christian community within that world of sexual promiscuity, idolatry, and sin. I suggested it might be like working at an accounting firm on Bourbon Street in New Orleans. You know, your normal, average, every-day accounting office that just happens to be on a street that represents indulgence of every kind. I’m guessing that a CPA in that firm would need to plan his lunch hour pretty carefully or else she or he might be led astray by the world that surrounds that office.
And that’s the point. Idle hands are the Devil’s workshop. We must take full advantage of our time in order to avoid succumbing to the ways of the world that surround us. We must spend our hours singing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs because, if we don’t, careless time gets us into trouble. That’s a true today in Decatur, Alabama, as it is in New Orleans as it was in Ephesus.
Christians are in recovery. All of us are. We are in recovery from sin—an addiction that means we can’t afford to spend our time carelessly. These are evil days, and temptation surrounds us on every side. Idle time isn’t good for a newly recovering alcoholic, nor is it good for new Christians either. Instead, we must take advantage of our time. That’s not a fire-and-brimstone sort of warning. It’s just good advice.