Read Ephesians 4:25-5:2.
Why do you do what you do? The reasons behind your will, words and ways are as important as your actions. They reveal a great deal about who your life is really about and what is truly important to you.
This time, as you read through this passage (Eph. 4:25-5:2), don’t pay so much attention to the action Paul says to practice or avoid, but focus instead on his reasoning behind such actions. His motivations for obedience to God’s will differs dramatically with the reasoning commonly found among lots of folks who fill up church buildings every Sunday.
For example, we’re told not to lie. (4:25) But why not lie? Is it because you might get caught? Because you might have to tell another lie to cover up the first lie? No, the greater reasoning is because “… we are all members of one body.” In other words, when you lie you don’t just hurt the person you’re trying to deceive, but you’re hurting everyone – literally everyone – including yourself.
We’re told not to harbor anger (4:26-27). Why not stay angry? Because it will make you an unhappy person? Because you might lose a friend or two over it? No, not so much these things as the fact it will “… give the devil a foothold.” When you hold onto anger, you give Satan a place where he can do even worse things to you and with you to work not only you great harm, but others, too.
We’re told to work for a living and not to steal (4:28). Why? So you can get ahead? So you can have more? No, the true Christian motivation is so will “… have something to share with those in need.” That is, work so you can give as much as you can to the poor. Wow! Chew on that one for awhile!
We’re told to be careful with our choice of words when conversing with others. (4:29) Why not speak your mind all the time? Because it might cost you a relationship? Because it might derail your chances for some advantage that you seek? Because you might get sured for slander? No, because we’re to have in mind “… only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs” and to “benefit those who listen.”
And we’re told not to be kind, compassionate and forgiving (4:30-32). Why? So people will forgive you when you mess up? So you don’t have the weight of a guilty conscience burdening you? No, but simply because “… in Christ God forgave you.”
There is a way of living outwardly as “a good person” that is not a the Christian walk at all. Looking at the outside it can be difficult, perhaps even impossible, to tell the difference. But what God wants is for you and me to do the right thing for the right reasons. And as long as you’re the main reason or my interests is what motivate my actions, he’s not the main one in our lives, nor do we value others as highly as he does.
May we become open more so each day to “… walk in the way of love.” (5:2)
Father God in heaven, may what my life is about today be about the name of Jesus. Not my name or my desires, but about his name and your will. May the things that power my ways today not be about me, but about loving you and loving others. Amen.