“Be careful how you live”
15Be careful then how you live, not as unwise people but as wise, 16making the most of the time, because the days are evil. 17So do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. 18Do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery; but be filled with the Spirit, 19as you sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs among yourselves, singing and making melody to the Lord in your hearts, 20giving thanks to God the Father at all times and for everything in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. Ephesians 5: 15-20, NRSB
sheboro High School was a culturally indigenous place until Bucky moved to town. He was from “New-Yak City” and he dressed like an Elvis-Biker type. He wore long black greased up hair in a pompadour, a black leather jacket over his black tee shirt which he wore 12 months out of the year. Our eighth grade homeroom teacher, Mr. Roberts, felt led to give Bucky a talk about “fitting in.” But Bucky was not planning to stay with his grandparents for long.
Bucky and television had begun to break into our Methodisto-Baptistic ideas about how all the rest of the world should be run. We had learned it right out of the Bible and thought that the whole wide world should be just like we were. Somehow we overlooked the passages about loving our neighbors and respecting people who were just a little bit different.
Sociologists credit The Apostle Paul with having a major role in establishing what we call “Western Culture and Civilization.” Our moral code and lifestyle was set by him, even more than by Jesus. His pastoral letter written from prison to the Ephesian Church, and subsequently to all succeeding Christians, set up a high moral code for all to follow.
Correctly interpreted with love, forgiveness, and the Grace of Christ, the Pauline Epistles remain our main directions in following a careful way of life.
Verse fifteen holds up “wisdom” as the compass in finding our path. We have to give credit to the early Methodists, and most other denominations, in making higher education available to most young people. Our denomination has over one hundred universities and colleges that led the way. In Atlanta we know about Emory and its founding by the Methodist Church and Coca Cola. Duke was built by the tobacco industry in North Carolina and S.M.U. was funded by Texas oil. All of the denominationally founded schools found their impetus in the words of Paul who encouraged us to find wisdom. The religious part of a higher education adds wisdom to mere knowledge and technical skills. It is Christian wisdom that teaches us how to live.
Long before the terms “Time Management,” and “Money Management” were made popular, our Methodist people had a “method” for managing their daily lives wisely. Verse sixteen encourages us to “make the most of time.” In other places we are required to handle our material goods with severe
carefulness. We are expected to tithe and give liberally to others through the Church. We are called to be good stewards in the use of our hard earned money. When we talk about the Scots and the Irish being tight, we are describing what they learned and applied from the Apostle Paul. Most of the most respected “Money Managers” in America today are applying the New Testament to life.
My parents were good money managers. Mother was a “planner,” and approached retirement with everything ready to quit teaching first grade. Dad was a hard worker but enjoyed spending his newfound money. When I earned my first paycheck Dad took me with him to the bank and introduced me to the President who set up two accounts; checking and savings. He helped me learn to keep up with my money, and I discovered the thrill of compound interest.
As a business major in a Christian College I was taught to apply St. Paul to St. Investments and Savings. My main professor said that we should never finance anything but a home. She said to never finance an automobile but to save up the cash and drive the old car until you could pay cash. Lots of young students made light of her advice but I took it
The secure feeling that comes as a by-product of financial security is the thing that allows us to “make melody to the Lord in our hearts.” (v.19)
And the last verse in our text calls us to “give thanks to God the Father at all times and for everything in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.” No longer will we have a lack of financial security because we have followed God’s plan, and now we can “Whistle While We Work!” not as “unwise fools” but as wise disciples of Christ.
Methodist Circuit Riders, and later Pastors of station churches, have been poor examples of wise planning. John Wesley taught us to pay main attention to managing time, with such statements as, “Never waste a moment’s time by being too long in any one place!” But money was overlooked. Most ended forty or more years in ministry with no home, and much debt. Today we are required to go to retirement planning clinics that tell us to have a paid off home somewhere and to go into retirement debt free. Although our pension plan is greatly improved it will never take the place of not planning. Finally, the Methodists have a workable method.
And then there is the very practical advice from St. Paul for us to be very careful with beverage alcohol, and other drugs that can cause accidents and become addictive. This issue is perhaps our main social problem. Hopefully our Methodist teenagers have been taught how to handle the excesses of legal drugs and avoid illegal ones. Parents have a really big task in guiding youth on these volatile subjects
And Bucky is back in New York somewhere; hopefully enjoying the fruits of living in the Bible-Belt for a short while. And we learned a lot about ourselves from him too!
sermon synopsis by C. Robert Allred, Th.D., Pastor