It’s the start of a new year, which brings along talk of New Year’s Resolutions and goals to do for the New Year.
This is all fine and dandy. I have goals I want to do in the new year.
Problems comes when Christians try to pull a Bible verse out of context to buck up their self-help efforts. A classic verse for New Year’s Resolutioning is Ephesians 5:16, particularly the phrase, “Redeeming the time.”
Or, as the English Standard Version puts it, “making the best use of the time.”
So, once we plaster a Biblical phrase on our goals, we can convince ourselves that our self-help goals are actually fulfillment of Scriptural command!
Verses have contexts and contexts are very important for determining what a biblical author is talking about.
When Paul tells you to make “the best use of the time,” he’s not referring to you being busy, doing goals, keeping resolutions, or anything like that. The immediate context refers to doing righteousness.
Ephesians 5:11 says we should have no fellowship with works of darkness
Ephesians 5:13 the light of God reproves evil works
Ephesians 5:14–so wake up and Christ will give you light
Ephesians 5:15–be careful, walk wisely
Ephesians 5:16–redeem the time for the days are evil
Ephesians 5:17–don’t be stupid: know what God’s will is
Ephesians 5:18–don’t get drunk, be filled with the Spirit
Ephesians 5:19-20–sing and give thanks to God
Ephesians 5:21–submit to one another in the fear of God
Ephesians 5:22–wives submit to your husbands
Ephesians 5:25–husbands love your wives
. . . and so on
Paul is not talking about your precious little goals to make your flesh look better and make more money to achieve more materially.
Paul is talking about becoming righteous, cleaning up your life, and, lest we forget, the main thrust is submission. The exact same context, and many of the same words, are repeated in Colossians 3:16-4:5–give thanks, be wise, submit, redeem the time, etc. He’s consistent on what he means by “redeeming the time.”
So, unless your New Year’s Resolutions consist of: don’t get drunk, sing and give thanks to God, submit to everyone, submit to your husband or love your wife, then Paul is not talking about your goals.
Don’t turn the Bible into a self-help manual. The Bible was not written so you could attain earthly success in all its temporal glory. The Bible is not a self-help book; it is a mortify the flesh by the Spirit book.