The word of the day is “days.” As our world staggers from one crisis to another, we are tempted to despair. We might say to ourselves that there is nothing that we can do about the turmoil of our times. Yet, our reading of Ephesians 5:9-19 encourages us that we can respond faithfully to the chaos surrounding us. Thus, Paul exhorts us “to walk circumspectly… redeeming the time because the days are evil” (vs. 15). Today we consider what it means to “redeem” what otherwise is an evil time.
The Day is Not Evil by Nature
Why does Paul call the day in which we live “evil”? Are things that bad? The Greek term evil refers to the effect or influence of wickedness or malice on something or someone. But note that does not describe the essential character of what it affects (Strong’s #4190, 267).
Accordingly, St. John Chrysostom says that what we call “evil” belongs to whatever we describe. For instance, the evil of the body is disease, whereas the evil of the soul is wickedness. But then what is the “evil of the day”? He says that it is not the day itself. “It is not the essence of the thing, not the things as so created, but it is the things transacted in them.” Thus, the events of the day that come from God are good. But the events that “bad men” perform are “evil.” To the extent that the works of “bad men” prevail, the days are “evil.” (NfPf1: 13, 137).
We Can Make Good of What Others Make Evil
This analysis opens a possibility that we perhaps overlook in our hopelessness. We can “redeem” the time. The word redeem means to rescue to “buy back” as a slave is brought from slavery (Strong’s #1805, 90). Thus it means to save from loss. To “redeem the time” means that though evil men make evil out of the day, we can make good of the same span of morning and evening.
How can we save our days from evil? Paul says that we can deliver our days from wickedness by “walking circumspectly” (vs. 15), that is, by living each day “carefully “and “diligently” (Strong’s 199) in the light of the Spirit.
The Fruits of the Spirit Make Each Day Good
In Galatians, St. Paul writes. “If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit” (OSB Galatians 5:25). The Spirit is the divine giver of both life and light. When we follow the leadership of the Spirit of wisdom, truth, and understanding throughout each day, we bear the fruits of the Spirit. And these fruits of goodness, righteousness, and truth make good use of that day for the Glory of God and sharing of His love. Thus, when we live in the light of the Spirit, we truly “redeem” and save our time from loss.
Paul goes on from our reading to suggest that the way to spend our days in peace and goodness is to be “filled with the Spirit (OSB Ephesians 5:18). St. John Chrysostom comments, “And is this Spirit within us?… Yes indeed, within us, for when we have driven away lying and bitterness, and fornication, and uncleanness, and covetousness, from our souls, when we are become kind, tender-hearted, forgiving one another, when… we have rendered ourselves worthy of it, what is there to hinder the Holy Spirit from lighting upon us? And not only will He come to us, but He will fill our hearts; and when we have so great a light kindled within us, then will the way of virtue be no longer difficult to attain but will be easy and simple” (NfPf1:13, 138).
So let us be filled with the Spirit, and our days will overflow with what is good, right, and fulfilling.