I often find myself praying for wisdom. It is a prayer I think many of us pray because we encounter daily challenges and conundrums that require careful discernment. Sometimes, what I’m really seeking are simple solutions to complex challenges. But Scripture proclaims a wisdom that doesn’t bow to my desire for easy answers.
Paul’s first words to the Ephesians were a reminder of the riches and position we have in Christ (Ephesians 1:3–4). Paul is essentially declaring: You have received everything in Christ! Therefore live as His workmanship! (Ephesians 2:10). We have been changed by the gospel, and so our lives should be different, look different—a total life transformation from the inside out. The exhortation to wisdom in Ephesians 5 is the direct overflow of this change, but Paul doesn’t provide an easy answer to complex problems, though he provides a clear reminder of what wisdom is.
First, wisdom is circumspect: it calls us to pay careful attention to how we live (Ephesians 5:15). In a busy world it can be so easy to get distracted, even by good things, and fail to attentively walk with Christ. In contrast, the unwise are not paying attention. Their eyes do not see where their feet wander, and they stray quickly, flocking after the attractions and distractions of the world, preoccupied with self.
Second, wisdom is quietly industrious. Paul urges that we make the most of the time (Ephesians 5:16), to wisely use all the resources God has given us. Paul follows this call with a line from Amos 5:13: “for the days are evil.” The wise use their time well, bearing with the days of toil and tribulation with patient endurance, devoting their attention to what God has called them to do.
Third, wisdom is not foolish. Paul clarifies that folly is distracted, wasteful, and ignorant: it does not “understand what the will of the Lord is” (Ephesians 5:17). But we can know and understand His will by knowing His Word—the lamp for our feet and guard against temptation (Psalm 119:105,11).
Fourth, wisdom is Spirit-filled. The contrast Paul offers is that of dissipation, or drunkenness, when a man turns over the control of his life to desire, to appetite, to some other idol. These are the ways of the flesh. The Spirit-filled, inward life should affect every aspect of our outward lives. When we walk in His Spirit, our lips will be filled with His Word. The same Word that we are to hide in our hearts should also dance on our tongues in psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs (Ephesians 5:19).
I think this is an often neglected aspect of wisdom: the idea that wise men are somber and woeful. Rather, they are full of praise and thanksgiving. This is part of making the most of the time. Though the days are evil, the voice of praise and thanksgiving should never be silenced. Thanksgiving is always right; even in the hardest of circumstances, we should not cease giving thanks.
Scripture is a two-edged sword. I find in it both the conviction of my shortcomings, and also the inspiration and encouragement to walk anew. Because Christ has won every heavenly blessing for me, I need not wallow in my own inabilities, but can rise and walk in His sufficiency and strength. He has done everything. Thanks be to God for the opportunity to walk in wisdom and newness of life!
Written by Caleb Faires