Ephesians 5

Read Ephesians 5.

I mentioned yesterday that God’s love is a key theme in Ephesians and that, in Christ, we live worthy of the calling by acting in love towards one another.

The opening verses of today’s chapter said it directly, “Follow God’s example, therefore, as dearly loved children and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us….” The rest of the chapter–and much of the next one–specify what it means to “walk in the way of love.”

There are all kinds of highly applicable commands in this passage but let’s focus on this one: “Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking, which are out of place, but rather thanksgiving.” An article from a few years ago in the Guardian, a newspaper from the United Kingdom, reported dramatic increases in swear words that were used in books.

The article said that researchers searched almost 1 million books written in American English and published between 1950 and 2008. During that time period, one swear word had increased in usage 678 times between 1950 and the mid-2000s.

Another word was used 168 times more often over that time period. This is no surprise to any of us who have been alive for the last half or more of the past six decades. Our society has grown more and more comfortable using words that speak crudely of sex or of bodily functions.

Many of these words are used to express a person’s anger. It seems to me that our society has more anger to express than ever before, too, which correlates with the increase in cursing.

One of the ways God calls us to “live a life of love” is to remove obscene, crude talk from our conversation. Paul said in verse 4 that these words are “out of place.”

What makes them out of place?

The fact that we belong to God, for one, who calls us to be holy like he is (see 3b). Furthermore, knowing Christ changes our outlook on the world and gives us the tools to be angry without sinning.

But the most immediate antidote for cursing is given to us in verse 4 as well when Paul says, “…but rather thanksgiving.” You can’t be angry and thankful at the same time. One way to deal with anger biblically, then, is to pivot your thinking from the things that make you mad and want to curse to something you can give thanks for in that situation. Turn your curses, then, into opportunities to bless the Lord for the good things He has done in your life. This will help you to live a life of love, just as Christ himself did.

Exodus 16, Job 34, James 5

Read Exodus 16, Job 34, and James 5. This devotional is about James 5.

Are you a man or woman of your word? If you tell someone you will do something or be somewhere or arrive at a certain time, can that person count on you?

Or, do you have to preface or follow something you’ve said with the statement, “I swear!” or “I promise!” Those phrases are necessary when we know we can’t be trusted. When we’ve just failed to keep a commitment or have a habit of being undependable, we have to resort to saying, “I swear” or “I promise” to manufacture a little bit of credibility for ourselves.

Jesus commanded us, his followers, not to say these things. James repeats those words of Jesus here in James 5:12: “Above all, my brothers and sisters, do not swear—not by heaven or by earth or by anything else. All you need to say is a simple ‘Yes’ or ‘No.’ Otherwise you will be condemned.” The point of saying “a simple ‘Yes’ or ‘No’” is that you will do what you agree to do or you will be honest if you can’t, won’t, or don’t want to do it. Because we want people to like us, we all have a tendency to say “yes” to things that we really don’t want to do. James reminds us that following Jesus means being upfront and honest with others.

A person who is consistently honest and keeps his or her word is someone who can be trusted in the future. That kind of person, so rare in our world, never needs to say, “I swear” or “I promise.”

Look, life happens sometimes and prevents us from keeping our word when we had every intention of doing so. When that happens, the best thing to do is go to the person who was counting on you and apologize, taking responsibility and explaining–truthfully–what happened.

These days, of course, everyone has a cellphone on them, so missed commitments can be renegotiated. A renegotiated commitment is not a broken commitment. A person who keeps his commitments will keep his commitments or he’ll contact you to explain or apologize as soon as possible.

Today you will be asked for things–to show up at a meeting, to take on a responsibility, to come for an appointment, to bake cookies for your kids’ bake sale–whatever. Christians are people of truth; if you can’t do what is being asked of you, there is absolutely no shame in saying, “No.”

Remember that is one of the options James said we could say in verse 12. As followers of Christ, let’s make our commitments slowly, carefully, and with every intention of fulfilling them. Do this day after day, week after week, and people will learn that you can be trusted. That is a character quality that pleases the Lord.

Ephesians 5

Today, read Ephesians 5.

I mentioned yesterday that God’s love is a key theme in Ephesians and that, in Christ, we live worthy of the calling by acting in love towards one another. The opening verses of today’s chapter said it directly, “ Follow God’s example, therefore, as dearly loved children and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us….” The rest of this chapter and much of the next one specify what it means to “walk in the way of love.” There are all kinds of highly applicable commands in this passage but let’s focus on this one: “Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking, which are out of place, but rather thanksgiving.” A recent article in the Guardian, a newspaper from the United Kingdom reported dramatic increases in swear words that were used in books. Ordinarily I would link to the article, but it uses the swear words, so I’ll just link to Albert Mohler’s podcast The Briefing where I heard about this study.

Anyway, the Guardian article said that researches searched almost 1 million books written in American English and published between 1950 and 2008. During that time period, one swearword had increased in usage 678 times between 1950 and the mid-200s. Another word was used 168 times more over that time period. This is no surprise to any of us who have been alive for the last half or more of the past six decades. Our society has grown more and more comfortable using words that speak crudely of sex or of bodily functions. Many of these words are used to express a person’s anger. It seems to me that our society has more anger to express than ever before, too, which correlates with the increase in cursing.

One of the ways God calls us to “live a life of love” is to remove obscene, crude talk from our conversation. Paul said in verse 4 that these words are “out of place.” What makes them out of place? The fact that we belong to God, for one, who calls us to be holy like he is (see 3b). Furthermore, knowing Christ changes our outlook on the world and gives us the tools to be angry without sinning. But the most immediate antidote for cursing is given to us in verse 4 as well when Paul says, “…but rather thanksgiving.” You can’t be angry and thankful at the same time; one way to deal with anger biblically, then, is to pivot your thinking from the things that make you mad and want to curse to something you can give thanks for in that situation. Turn your curses, then, into opportunities to bless the Lord for the good things He has done in your life. This will help you to live a life of love, just as Christ himself did.