Redeeming the time
Redeeming the time, because the days are evil. Eph. 5:16
If you do not want to be a fool (and, remember, from a Biblical point of view, a fool is not just someone who does stupid things, but someone who does the most stupid of all things – that is, one who does not fear God or listen to his word), then there are some things that you must do. In Eph. 5:16, the apostle tells us that if we want to walk wisely and not as fools (15) then we must be “redeeming the time, because the days are evil.” We walk circumspectly as wise men and women when we redeem the time.
What does this mean? This is a literal translation, which essentially refers to taking full advantage of every opportunity (“making the best use of your time,” ESV). In other words, we are to use our time wisely by not letting it slip by without improving ourselves in godliness and faith. This goes back to what the apostle said about walking carefully in verse 15. It is the opposite of someone who just thinks they can float through life without putting forth any effort. And this is especially true when it comes to the life that God calls us to live. It is likened to a race (2 Tim. 4) and a warfare (2 Tim. 2) and a wrestling match (1 Cor. 9), and therefore calls for a life of constant self-discipline and perseverance and watchfulness. You simply will not make strides in godliness and wisdom if you are not constantly striving for it. Jonathan Edwards knew the importance of this principle when he wrote, “Resolved: Never to lose one moment of time, but to improve it in the most profitable way I possibly can.”
The reason the apostle gives for this is in the phrase, “because the days are evil.” It is like sailors on a storm-stricken ship which has sprung many leaks so that the pumps have to be constantly manned to keep the ship afloat. Leave the pump and the ship sinks. Even so it is in this life. We live in evil days, days which are often like storms against an old sailing ship that puts holes in the sails and sides, and sends wave after wave into the ship. And unless you man the pumps, the ship will sink. Unless you redeem every possible moment, you will be like a sailor that leaves the pump unattended because he is just too tired. But your walk with God depends upon it! We need to see that. King David fell into grievous sin because he stayed home when he should have been in battle. Peter denied Christ because he let himself go to sleep instead of staying awake to pray. And you and I will not grow in godliness and wisdom unless we redeem the time and use every moment as a way to strengthen our spiritual health.
But thanks be to God that the strength to be constant in the service of the Lord does not depend upon us but upon the work of God in us. That is why the apostle goes on to say, "And be not drunk with wine . . . but be filled with the Spirit" (18). It is the Spirit of God, not our own strength, which gives us the grace to redeem the time. So let us not be discouraged. But neither let us be lazy. Let us redeem the time. Let us be fervent in spirit, serving the Lord (Rom. 12:11).