“Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise men but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil.”
This passage gives three essential disciplines for the Christian life: Look carefully, walk wisely, and redeem the time. It also gives why these three disciplines are so important: Because the days are evil.
The first discipline is to look carefully; that is, pay careful attention to how you live your life. This includes how you respond to the situations and events you experience. Situational awareness is an essential skill. Your ability to respond to a situation will only be as effective as the clarity with which you see it. Therefore, this verse instructs us to “look carefully.”
The word that Paul uses for “carefully” is the Greek akribos, which means “diligent and accurate.” It should be noted that diligence precedes accuracy. If you want to respond wisely to any situation, you must first see accurately, which requires the diligent and disciplined work necessary to see what needs to be seen, not just the immediate and the obvious. In other words, get beyond what gets your attention.
Unfortunately, a disturbing number of people in our time are impulsive, impetuous, and reactionary. They lack akribos; that is, they don’t do the diligent (and difficult) work of thinking and gaining clarity, and therefore don’t see accurately.
Ephesians instructs us to have the courage and discipline to see the reality of the situations we face. A significant challenge is to beware screening out realities we don’t want to see. We need the wisdom to see what God wants us to see.
Courage precedes clarity. Reality is not that hard to see, but it can be hard to accept. People often screen out realities that challenge their assumptions, feelings, and behavior patterns. When that happens, it isn’t a clarity problem; it is a courage problem.
The challenge is that we see through a narrow and limited lens. We see through a filter. We see selectively and subjectively. We have blind spots. As a result, what gets our attention sometimes distracts us from what really matters. What also get us into trouble is that although our perspective is limited, it feels complete. We think we see more clearly than we actually do.
We also get emotionally attached to the way we see things, and because of that emotional attachment, we tend to ignore or distort information that challenges our perception.
“Look carefully” — seeing with akribos — is hard work, but you must do it, and you must get good at it. Our old default nature is narrow, selfish, and driven by deceitful passions. Our new nature in Christ — our discipline-driven nature — is redeemed and empowered by the Holy Spirit to see with clarity and courage. The new nature has courage to do the hard work of situational awareness.
“Look carefully” at yourself is even harder than looking carefully at situations. Many people lack self-awareness: they do not have an accurate view of themselves. As a result of poor self-awareness, they are ill-prepared to respond to the events and situations of life.
At one end of the spectrum poor self-awareness can take the form of over-confidence and arrogance, and at the other end of the spectrum it can take the form of low self-esteem and insecurity. Both are the result of faulty self-perception. The former is too high a view of self; the latter too low a view.
Know your strengths and weaknesses. Get feedback, especially about your blind spots. This can be hard because you don’t know what you don’t know about yourself. When someone gives you feedback (directly or indirectly) that contradicts how you perceive yourself, the tendency is to get defensive.
As you go about your day, remember Paul’s instruction in Ephesians: Look carefully at yourself and how you walk. That means akribos … see with diligence and accuracy. Romans give an additional admonition:
“For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned.” (Romans 12.3)
Once we have evaluated a situation with clarity and courage, and sought insight from the Lord, it is time to take action … to walk wisely. That will be our topic next week.
The Lord is calling.