Ephesians 4:25-32 Put Off/Put On! Part 2 Insert
Beginning in Ephesians 4:25, Paul listed 5 areas of everyday life that ought to reflect our walk with Jesus. Paul noted an area that we should avoid and then gave the counter part that should be seen in each of us. We have been looking at it under “Put Off, Put On.”
In verse 25 Paul wrote, “put off falsehood” and then noted, “speak truthfully to your neighbor.” In other words, “stop lying and start being a person whose word can be counted on.”
In verses 26-27 Paul wrote, “In your anger do not sin” and went on to note that even when we exhibit righteous anger, we must not hold onto that anger long enough for it to “give the devil a foothold.” If you have legitimate cause to be angry, be sure that anger does not fester to the point where it lashes where it should not.
In verses 28 Paul wrote that Christians should “steal no longer,” with the counterpart being, “work, doing something useful with their own hands.” In other words, honestly work so you can earn sufficient income that you do not need to steal to meet your needs.
In verse 29 Paul wrote that “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths” and instead speak “only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.” In other words, useyour ability to communicate in a way thathelps and encourages others.
Finally in verses 31-32 Paul wrote, “Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice.” Instead of that, Paul’s admonition was to “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” The contrast there is obvious.
Returning to verses 28, Paul wrote that they should “steal no longer,” but instead, “work, doing something useful with their own hands.” Paul was dealing with a major problem in his day and while circumstances have changed, the belief that one has the right to take or keep that which belongs to another is part of our culture. “Do not steal” is the 8th of the 10 commandments so there should have been no reason to even write this. In Paul’s day it was part of the slave culture to assume that since one was not being paid, he was entitled to a share of whatever the owner had. Therefore, a slave felt free to take from the crops or house. Paul told the Christians that honest presented a testimony of the transformation God had brought in their lives.
No Christian should feel the need to purchase a gun and rob a bank, but too many Christians feel it is OK to take supplies from work, over state an expense account, keep anything extra a clerk gives us back by mistake, etc. Paul wrote that Christians should work honestly so they can earn sufficient that they not only do not need to steal to meet their needs but so they can share with those in need.
The phrase “doing something useful” is literally “doing something good” with “good” denoting the quality of one’s work. Since Jesus noted that only God is good, we assume the work we do should be honoring to God and reflect His goodness. That includes how well we do the work we are being paid to do and the nature of the work. Any job that is not honoring to God or that does not reflect God’s standards is wrong for a Christian. A Christian does not belong in any profession that expects him to compromise his Christian standards.
Paul went on to give an interesting twist on working. He wrote that Christians should work, “doing something useful with their own hands, that they may have something to share with those in need.” We obviously should work to support our family but added to that when we earn more we have more to use to help others. Read Luke 12:13-21. It is easy to miss the point of that parable and assume, like the man Jesus used as an example, a better income means more for me and my family. Paul wrote that a Christian needs to evaluate the priority he puts on things and evaluate his things against the opportunities God gives us to be His instruments of blessing to those in need. Something we can all think about.
In Luke 14 Jesus made another observation on the responsibility we have for the use of our resources. Jesus was discussing those the rich or powerful and in particular who the Pharisees invited to their home. Read Luke 14:12-14. That parable is a challenge to contemplate those we associate with and those with whom we share our resources.
Paul went to turn his attention from our hands to our mouths and wrote in verse 29, “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths” but instead speak “only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.” In other words, as Christians we should useour ability to communicate in a way thathelps and encourages others.
The picture Paul used to describe talk that is not wholesome is the same that was used to describe rotten fruit and rotten fish. Rotten food is overall worthless and may actually make one sick. Language compared to rotten food would certainly include taking the name of Jesus in vain. It would also include unkind words, untrue words, gossip, words that are rude, hurtful, or careless. Off color jokes fall into that category as does racist or sexist comments or jokes. A bit later in this same letter Paul listed a variety of behaviors that should have no place in the life of a Christian. Read Ephesians 5:4.
In place of conversations that are not helpful and in fact are like rotten food, Paul wrote in his letter to the church in Colossae, “Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt.” (Colossians 4:6)Salt was used in preserving food, which is the opposite of letting it spoil or rot. What a difference it would make in our society if people could learn to encourage one another instead of tearing others down. Paul would challenge us to make a habit of encouraging at least one person each day by saying something special to them. We can encourage adults by telling them what their service means, what their smile communicates, how their faithfulness is an encouragement, etc.
On the surface the command to avoid unwholesome talk seems very straight forward but it may be the most difficult of Paul’s challenges to correct. Read James 3:6 and 8. Speaking wholesome words that, as Paul said are, “helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen” will take a determined effort on our part but in the end will add significantly to our testimony as Christians to the transforming power of the Holy Spirit within.
Finally, Paul wrote, “Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice.” Instead of that, Paul’s admonition was to “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” The contrast there is obvious.
You’ll have to basically look at the last one on your own but just let me point out that Paul lists 6 attitude or activities that have no place in the life of a believer. He wrote that we are to put off bitterness, rage, anger, brawling, slander, and malice. Collectively they speak of doing the kinds of things that reflect varying degrees of getting upset or revenge over some way we have been treated. Paul never suggested that we might not feel, or even have in a sense reason to be, justified so he told us to put on forgiveness.
The reason to put on an attitude and practice of being kind, compassionate, and forgiving is because our Savior has treated us that way. That approach is described in Ephesians 5:1 where Paul urged Christians to “Follow God’s example,” or as many translations have it, “Be imitators of God.”
Use this overview of Paul’s “Put Off, Put On” to see if there are areas you need to personally work on. It may not be an issue of a major change but the tweaking of behavior that perhaps we have not thought about recently. Our goal as believers should be to constantly be growing in our daily imitation of our Savior. Growth means change and change demands work, but it is worth it. Commit to making any necessary changes in either attitude or behavior or perhaps in both. After all, Paul wants us to make a serious effort to be an imitator of our Savior.