Walking carefully – being careful to be wise rather than a fool Ephesians 5:15

As we travel through life we are being told by the apostle Paul to walk carefully.

When he says “walk” he means what we do on a daily basis – how we behave and think in our normal daily life. He advises us to be wise rather than foolish in our life and the decisions we make.

How Paul longed for the Ephesians to be among the wise virgins when the Lord returns. “Look carefully then how you walk”, was his advice. Be diligent; be careful at all times not to be among the foolish virgins who will be shut out of the marriage feast when Jesus comes to claim his Bride.

Walking wisely

How does a believer make himself (or herself) wise? He does it by making the right use of time. If we look to the words after verse 15 we read this:

Rather than using time for the wrong purpose redeem yourself and spend your time for good uses and the service of righteousness. This is what it says in Colossians chapter 4 and verse 5:

Or as the NIV version says:

This is telling the believer to take every opportunity to teach the Bible to non-believers.  Life is short so it is up to the believer to use his time wisely in preaching to others and telling them about God. However, in the presence of those who do not share his faith, the believer needs to be discreet and wise.

The Weymouth version of the Bible translates Colossians 4:5 as “Behave wisely in relation to the outside world, buying up your opportunities”. Weymouth is saying that in a simlar way to a alert shopper who is ready to use every opportunity to secure the things he (or she) needs, so must the believer seize from the passing time every opportunity to serve God. The price paid is the sacrifice of not wasting your time in self indulgence.


As we saw above, Ephesians chapter five and verse sixteen says: “making the best use of the time, because the days are evil”. This is giving the reason for alertness and care when you are walk. It is because the days are evil. In other words, the conditions in the world are morally bad and therefore watchfulness and care are needed. That was the case back in the time of the apostle Paul and it is certainly the case now in the 21st century. We are wise to take the advice of the apostle Paul: Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. (Ephesians 5:17)

An example of foolishness

In the next verse of Ephesians chapter 5 Paul gives an example of foolishness:

It is said that wine was glorified as an excitement of emotion, and even of wit and intellect by such contemporary writers as Horace. But Paul says that in drunkenness there is debauchery or excessive indulgence. Very often drunkenness is followed by lack of restraint, dissolution and even ruin.

Filled with the spirit

Instead of wine, Paul exhorts the Ephesians to

What does it mean to be “filled with the Spirit”. What do we become full with? Colossians chapter 3 and verse 6 helps us to answer that question:

To be filled with the spirit leads to a mind rich in the understanding of God and His ways as revealed in his Word, the Bible. Instead of seeking the excitement of excessive drinking of wine we are better off to seek the elevation of thought that comes from passionate love of the Word of God.

The drunkard indulges in foolish talk and immoral joking. However, the Christian governs his speech with praise and gladness and joy. The heart is joyful because it is linked to Christ and is thankful for his message.

Paul wanted the believer’s love to grow and grow, “with knowledge and all discernment, so that they would be pure and blameless in the day of Christ, “filled with the fruits of righteousness, to the glory of God” (Phil. 1 : 8–11).

It was his prayer for all believers, in the whole family of God,

“Comprehension” and “knowledge” have to do with the motivating power of love; with Christ dwelling in our hearts; and being filled with the spirit of God. In such a man, and in such a community, will reason and emotion meet.

Father and son
Submitting to one another

It says in verse 21 “….submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ”.

This doesn’t mean that no one should take a leadership role and guide and direct others. Rather the idea is illustrated by considering the duties of husbands and wives, fathers and children and masters and servants. Paul is not saying that masters have to be subject to servants. Rather it is a rule of mutual submission.


The message from Paul is that the Christian life is one of orderliness. He contrasts the life of a Christian to that of a non-believer. An example of this is, as we have just seen, is the drunkenness of a non-believer who drinks excessively. However, the disciples of Christ get their direction from the Word of God. They have lives of deep satisfaction based on the information given to them by the Creator of all mankind. As a result, they live orderly lives where they have purpose.  They have a quiet submissiveness to the appointed authorities – whether they be personal, civic or religious associations. Instead of self-assertiveness of the drunkard, the believer has the characteristic of orderliness and willingly submissive to authority.

Our imagination

We have seen in this article that Paul tells the believer to “Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise”. There are many aspects to this direction.

Part of walking carefully involves controlling our imagination. We have to admit that the imagination is a powerful thing and like many things in life can be used for good or evil. It is a two-edged sword; it can be used to the glory of God, in relation to the believers preaching and his (her) worship, or it can use it to take the believer way from what God commands and thereby led to the believers own destruction.

In all fairness, it is a full time job and a difficult one, for a disciple of Christ to keep his imagination under control at all times. The Scriptural advice is diligently to apply the Word of God to all the situations of our life and to pray constantly.


Therefore, to “Look carefully then how you walk” is more than thinking of where we have been or where we have not been: it is more than planning where our feet will take us in the coming days. It is concerned with the very manner of life we are living for our Lord—whether it is a walking in love, whether it is the path of light that we are following. After all, if the Lord God “ponders all our goings” and is a God who looks on the heart, who searches the heart and understands all the imaginations of our thoughts, then that must be the starting place for our watching as well.