What do you spend your time on? Each of us has a finite number of hours given to us in life during which we can accomplish something of lasting value; is what you’re immersing yourself in valuable in light of eternity, or will you be ashamed when you meet the Lord after you die?
“And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather expose them.” (Ephesians 5:11)
Today’s verse exhorts us to not only personally reject the works of darkness, but to also do something about it. The New King James Version (quoted above) says we are to expose these works of darkness, yet this is an example of poor translation. The word used in the King James Version—reprove—is correct, because the Greek word from which it was translated, elegcho, means, “to reprove with conviction upon the offender.” Since “reprove” means “to reprimand or censure someone” and the word “conviction” means “a strong persuasion or belief…also…the state of being convinced,” what we are to do is to have nothing to do with sin ourselves but, rather, reprimand, so as to convince, those guilty of sin. But why is this seemingly minor distinction significant?
Imagine being married to or in a business partnership with someone who is doing something unethical. Exposing their wrongdoing would publicly shame them (and you, by extension, even if you did nothing yourself), certainly causing resentment and anger. But if they are genuinely won over to the truth, they will correct their behavior themselves and the relationship will be remain intact. Yet, perhaps the greater lesson in today’s verse is that works of darkness are unfruitful.
Every deed we do in this life—every decision, every use of time, money and energy—has eternal impact and consequence. Jesus taught, “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Matthew 6:19-21) But why should we work for eternal treasures?
Revelation 20:11-15 (CEV) tells us:
“I saw a great white throne with Someone sitting on it. Earth and heaven tried to run away, but there was no place for them to go. I also saw all the dead people standing in front of that throne. Everyone of them was there, no matter who they had once been. Several books were opened, and then the book of life was opened. The dead were judged by what those books said they had done. The sea gave up the dead people who were in it, and death and its kingdom also gave up their dead. Then everyone was judged by what they had done…Anyone whose name wasn’t written in the book of life was thrown into the lake of fire.”
While those whose names are written in the book of life will not be thrown into the lake of fire, God clearly tells us that “everyone…[will be] judged by what they had done.” I am convinced that we are far too frivolous in assuming that our name is written in that book, because while genuine faith in the finished work of Christ certainly saves us, that kind of faith has certain characteristics that are comfortable to ignore. Revelation 21:8, for example, says, “But the cowardly, unbelieving, abominable, murderers, sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars shall have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death.” I may think that I believe in Christ, but, as a way of life, am I guilty of any of these?
Do I lie? Do I hate—because I John 3:15 tells us that, “Whoever hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him.” Am I guilty of fornication or adultery (keeping in mind that Christ said whoever looks lustfully has already committed the sin)? Is anything in my life more important to me than Christ’s kingdom and His righteousness in me—because if it is, I am every bit an idolater as if I were physically bowing down to a pagan statue. What about courage? This is not referring to being afraid of heights or speaking in public, but rather, do I do what is right, regardless of consequences? Or am I sometimes afraid, end up doing what seems practical or easier–even if it’s not quite right–and hope no one finds out? Whom am I kidding? Clearly, if this is me, I am only kidding myself because God already knows.
Engaging in the works of darkness—sinning—is not only an indicator that you need to examine yourself to see if you are in the faith (2 Corinthians 3:5), it is also unfruitful—a devious time-waster. Because we have only so long to live—and of that time, only so many hours/days/years during which we are mentally and physically functional—it is important that we spend our time wisely. Remember the parable of the talents? “The servant who had been given one thousand coins then came in…’I was frightened and went out and hid your money in the ground’…The master of the servant told him, ‘You are a worthless servant, and you will be thrown out into the dark where people will cry and grit their teeth in pain.’” (Matthew 25:24-30, CEV) Why was the master angry with that servant? It wasn’t because he hadn’t made a lot of money; it was because he had wasted the opportunity he was given and done nothing.
In God’s economy, we are the servants. Some of us have been given many talents—a godly upbringing, an education, material well-being; others have been given less. Yet we are all expected to do something with what we have. Because there are only so many hours in the day and only so much money, we have to make godly, disciplined, and prudent choices. We can spend on ourselves or donate toward a worthy cause; we can fellowship with Netflix, or with God in prayer and Bible study. And while it is not necessarily wrong to take a vacation or watch something on TV, we need to be clear about whether we are living for the temporal or the eternal, because our choices will be different.
So while there are things that are not necessarily, but merely circumstantially, wrong, sin is always wrong, and it is always an insidious waste. Aspiring political candidates as well as religious leaders caught in their wrong-doing can attest to the fact that their sin ruined their lives. Yet not only does sin have the potential of derailing careers and ministries, more importantly, it distracts us from what we should be focused on–eternity. While we are busy being drunk or drugged up, or running after our lusts–whether of the flesh or of the eyes–or living to impress others instead of God, time is passing–entire lives in some cases–time we will not get back. Yet at the end of that time, we will stand before God to give an account for what we did with it.
So how will you spend your time? Be diligent to ascertain that it is not is in any unfruitful endeavors, but rather, such that at the end of our lives we would hear our Lord tell us, “Well done, good and faithful servant; you were faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of your Lord!”
Help us have absolutely nothing to do with sin, which is devious and insidiously unfruitful, ourselves. Rather, help us effect a change of heart in those who struggle with sin. In Jesus’ name, amen.