A CALL TO WISE LIVING -- Lectionary Reflection on Ephesians 5:15-20
15 So be careful to live your life wisely, not foolishly. 16 Take advantage of every opportunity because these are evil times. 17 Because of this, don’t be ignorant, but understand the Lord’s will. 18 Don’t get drunk on wine, which produces depravity. Instead, be filled with the Spirit in the following ways: 19 speak to each other with psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs; sing and make music to the Lord in your hearts;20 always give thanks to God the Father for everything in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ; (Ephesians 5:15-20 CEB)
Having encouraged believers to refrain from darkness, the author shifts to a discussion of wisdom. Wisdom in the biblical context has strong ethical content, as is seen in the book of Proverbs and in the book of James, which functions as a handbook for Christian living, famously declaring that “faith without works is dead” (James 2:26). In this case, the community is encouraged to live carefully, guided by wisdom. They are told not to be foolish, but instead to discern the will of God. Thus, wisdom and the divine are essentially are parallel constructions —being one and the same. There is, of course, a reverse side to wisdom, that is, foolishness, which is defined by such behaviors as drunkenness and debauchery. Wise living, on the other hand, is defined by being filled with the Spirit. The reference to being filled with the Spirit serves as a bridge between the call to live wisely and the call to worship the God whom the believer is to imitate. Therefore, wise living, should move on into worship.
Call to Worship
The discussion of God’s ethical expectations culminates in a call to be filled with the Spirit and to join in worship of the God whose will the believer is called upon to discern and implement. This call to worship invites the disciple of Jesus to join in the singing of psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, “singing and making melody in your hearts.” These three forms of song also appear in Colossians 3:1 6, but while one might make distinctions between these three descriptors etymologically, it is really impossible for modern interpreters to be sure how they differ from each other. Therefore, it is best to refrain from the speculation and instead hear in these words a call for the Christian to burst out in praise of God in song, singing from the heart. This is the key to the invitation to enter into the praise of God —it should be heartfelt and not dutiful. In offering these songs of praise —whatever form they may have taken, they should eventuate in giving thanks to God through Christ “at all times and for everything.” Praise and thanksgiving, these are the qualities that should mark the life of one who is full of the Spirit of God.
NB. Commentary on Ephesians 5:15-20 excerpted from: Robert D. Cornwall, Ephesians: A Participatory Study Guide, Engergion Publications, 2010).