25 Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to your neighbor, for we are all members of one body. 26 “In your anger do not sin”: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, 27 and do not give the devil a foothold. 28 Anyone who has been stealing must steal no longer, but must work,doing something useful with their own hands, that they may have something to share with those in need.
(Ephesians 4:25-28 NIV)
Yesterday, Paul told us that we are to be different, to live for Christ, not for ourselves. In that process of change, we are to put off our old selves and desires, and to put on our new selves and the “new clothes” of righteousness and holiness that God gives us as followers of Jesus Christ.
Today, Paul gives some very specific examples of that to put off and put on:
- Put off: falsehood (lies)
- Put on: speak truthfully
Paul addresses a common problem in his day (and ours): telling the truth.
In verse 15 of chapter 4, Paul has already reminded us to speak the truth in love. This command was given in the section that dealt with unity in the body of Christ, the church. Paul reminds us again, here in verse 25, of the need to tell the truth, as it directly affects the spirit of unity with other believers, our spiritual “neighbors” in Christ.
- Put off: unrighteous anger (that leads to sin)
- Put on: righteous anger
Paul tells us here to deal with our anger, and to be angry only for the right reasons. What might those right reasons be? About things said or done to blaspheme God’s name or His character. Yes, God is bigger than us, and is able to take care of Himself. That’s not the point. The point is that we love the Lord enough that it bothers us about how God is treated in the world around us. If we didn’t care, it wouldn’t matter and it would never bother us. And that would show the indifferent attitude of our hearts towards the Lord.
Paul is also saying here that we should not have unresolved anger, which carries over from day to day, as it gives Satan a foothold, a platform from which to work in our lives. Scripture tells us that unresolved anger leads to bitterness, and bitterness to hatred. A little sprout of a weed, if not pulled out and dealt with, grows into a giant plant that must be chopped off and dug up to remove. And when the Lord has to do the chopping off and digging up of the “weeds” of sin in our lives, it can be a major unpleasant event, often painful in the process. Better to deal with our sins when they are small.
- Put off: stealing
- Put on: working and sharing, so they can give to others in need
Paul tells us not to steal, not to take things that do not belong to us. If we were giving instructions like this, what would we say? What attitude or action would we say in its place? Obviously, the first would be to get a job and work, so the person would not have to steal any longer, but could provide for themselves.
But Paul moves on quickly, directing us to move from a heart of taking to a heart of giving. It’s not about working to hoard, to pile up things and money and power and status for ourselves, but rather, to have excess in order to share with those who are in need. These actions show a change of heart, from life being all about me, to having concern and care for others as more important than my own selfish wants.
Telling the truth, having righteous anger when God’s name or character is defamed, and working in order to share with others in need are tall orders, but are three strong examples of what it means to live differently in Christ, and to make a difference in the world around us.
May we have both the conviction and the courage to live these practical examples of our faith every day.