"See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil. Therefore, do not be unwise, but understand what the will of the Lord is." - Ephesians 5:15-17 (NKJV)
The apostle, Paul, wrote this exhortation. Christians ought to walk, that is, live wisely. One of the things that we must be mindful concerns how we use time. This passage is not so much talking about time management as it is about redeeming time. It is about seizing the moment; seizing the opportunity.
Redeeming the time. What an interesting phrase! You have heard of redeeming pawned items, mortgaged property and even redeeming yourself. But redeeming time? What does Paul mean by redeeming time?
Redemption is ‘exagorazo’ in Greek. Urgently responding to pay a ransom to redeem a loved one from the kidnappers is the sense given in the context of the passage. Let me explain.
The word translated, time, is the Greek word, kairos. The Greeks has more than one word for time. Chronos means sequential time. Our clocks and calendars keep track of sequential time. Kairos, on the other hand, means something quite different. It means opportune time. This is a window of opportunity when you must act quickly and decisively failing which you will miss the boat. So, it carries the sense of crucial or critical time.
So, Paul was urging the Ephesians to act with intensity and a sense of urgency. What is it concerning? It concerns how they ought to live their Christian life. They must seize every moment to do God’s will. They must seize every opportunity to walk righteously in holiness. Abandon carnality and the old ways of life. Paul gave numerous examples before and after telling them to redeem the time.
Most bible versions translate “redeeming the time” along the lines of “making the most of the time” and making the most of every opportunity.” All these translations similarly capture the essence of Paul’s message, which is the intensity and urgency of living wisely by doing God’s will.
Why the intensity and urgency? Isn’t living a faithful Christian life a daily exercise? Paul gives the reason. Because the days are evil! You must understand that Paul’s perspective of the Christian life is vastly different from most contemporary Christians. He sees reality as involving demonic entities intervening heavily in human activities. The powers of darkness will seize every opportunity that is afforded to them to work against humanity, especially God’s people. This paradigm is evident throughout the letter to the Ephesians (Ephesians 1:21; 2:2; 3:10; 6:10-20). So, we must be vigilant at all time and not be given to complacency. He quotes and joins the refrains of Isaiah and Malachi: “Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you” (Ephesians 5:14).
The Old Testament carries a beautiful story of redeeming the time because the days are evil. It is found in the book of Esther. A royal edit had gone out throughout the Persian Empire to annihilate all the Jews. It was the plot of a wicked and powerful court official who had manipulated the king. A Jewish official by the name of Mordecai urgently requested Queen Esther, who was also Jewish, to intervene. But there was a problem. No one could approach the king without being summoned and Esther had not been summoned by King Xerxes for a month. Young Esther was in a dilemma.
Mordecai responded by sending this memorable message to Esther: Do not think that in the king’s palace you will be more likely to escape than all the other Jews. For if you remain silent at this time, protection and deliverance for the Jews will be ordained from some other place, but you and your father’s house shall be destroyed. And who knows if you may have attained royal position for such a time as this?” (Esther 4:13-14)
Mordecai’s words were necessarily blunt and intense to instil a sense of urgency in Esther. Many lives were at stake and the destiny of God’s people was in her hands. This was a kairos moment. She needed to respond appropriately and redeem the time in that day of great evil.
Thankfully, Esther responded decisively. After fasting for three days and three nights, she went to see King Xerxes, unsummoned. Her message to Mordecai was: “If I perish, I perish” (Ephesians 4:16). Such was her conviction and courage.
That is the kind of intensity and urgency Paul wants to instil in believers. Our normal Christian life might generally be uneventful, unlike Esther’s situation. Nevertheless, we should live faithfully with such conviction, redeeming the time, and always mindful to shun evil and follow God’s will. We ought to seize every opportunity to live a life that is pleasing in the eyes of God.
Pastors Les & Adeline Chua