Friday, August 06, 2010

Spending Time

Colossians 4:5 Walk in wisdom toward outsiders, making the best use of the time.

5 Ἐν σοφίᾳ περιπατεῖτε πρὸς τοὺς ἔξω τὸν καιρὸν ἐξαγοραζόμενοι.

I'm very familiar with the parallel to this passage in Ephesians, but this puts a little bit of a twist on it.  In Ephesians you get the sense that you are simply to manage your time well.  After all, we only get so much of it.  It's a precious resource and we should use it well.  Nobody would argue with that.

Here we get a little more direction.  It's not just that we are to use our time well, but we are to do it with respect to outsiders.  In other words, there seems to be an evangelistic purpose here.  It is not enough simply not to waste time.  Our time should be spent with a focus toward σοφίᾳ and it specifically mentions τοὺς ἔξω or the ones who are outside.

I'm fairly good at time-management.  I think I'm probably a little bit more disciplined than many.  I typically get a lot done every day.  But am I doing it with a mind toward outsiders?  Not so much.  I'm doing it with respect to my agenda.  Now the things I spend my time on are typically good things like exercise, reading Scripture, studying for seminary, and spending time with my family.  These are fine things.

This verse tells me that I need to prayerfully think about how I can use my time in walking in wisdom toward outsiders. How do you do this?


JS Allen said...

Wow, I read that a little differently. When I read it, I thought it was saying that I shouldn't waste so much time trying to preach to outsiders, and that I should be more careful about which outsiders to spend time on.

Jason said...

That's a fair point too. Not that they are inspired, but I decided to look at a couple of commentaries.

Calvin says that this verse means that we are to be careful in how we spend time with outsiders so as not to damage our witness of the gospel. But he also warns against time with outsiders because we will slowly become more like them if we only spend time with them.

Matthew Henry likewise warns us not to be defiled by our time with outsiders, but also exhorts us to do all we can to "recommend religion to them."

Chrysostom tied this verse to Jesus' command to the disciples to go out as sheep among wolves. Again, it seems to have something of an evangelistic flavor to it.

Again, these men are not necessarily authoritative. So what does the almost inspired ESV Study Bible (just kidding!) say?

Col. 4:5–6 Good Behavior toward Those Outside the Community. Paul encourages the Colossians to manifest a powerful and attractive testimony to non-Christians. seasoned with salt. This statement echoes the teaching of Jesus when he called his disciples to be “the salt of the earth” (Matt. 5:13). When applied to conversation, the metaphor suggests speaking in an interesting, stimulating, and wise way. Paul's comments assume that the Colossian believers are vitally involved in the local community and have ample opportunities to interact with outsiders in a way that would commend the gospel to them.

That's a pretty quick and dirty search of some commentaries I have on hand, but it seems that most agree that there is an evangelistic flavor to this verse. I think that as the ESVSB points out, this goes well with the verse in its context too.

What do you think when you read Ephesians 5:16? I think that the two are certainly parallel passages. Also, I have been getting beat up lately by my lack of evangelistic efforts, so that admittedly colored my reaction as I wrote this.

Jason said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
JS Allen said...

Yes, I think your interpretation is more correct, and is certainly the type of exhortation that we need.

BTW, how do you look up things in the commentaries so quickly? Is there a good software, or do you just have stacks of books?

Jason said...

I use BibleWorks 8, which I highly recommend, but you can use e-sword too (linked on my sidebar). I used e-sword for a LONG time before I was able to get BibleWorks. Also, since I own the ESV Study Bible I registered online and have access to the notes through If you have the resources for just one thing I recommend the ESV Study Bible after you finish installing e-sword. Get a hardcover copy because that is cheapest and then register online.

Let me know if you have any questions, particularly about e-sword. I got pretty good with it over the years.

Ρωμανός ~ Romanós said...

This is truly a powerful verse!
In plain Greek, to a Greek of today, it means simply to walk in wisdom among the outsiders, that is, to be a good witness for Christ, be seen as one against whom no outsider can bring a charge of unchristlike behavior.

The second part of the verse conveys to us that by doing this we are buying up the real estate of chrónos time, changing it by our "walking in wisdom" into kairós time.

The difference between chrónos and kairós as being time continuums is that chrónos has a beginning and end, kairós has no beginning or end. It is eternity breaking in on the other continuum.

You have been posting a lot of great thoughts here, and your understanding of the Greek Word, coming from a scholarly and well-read viewpoint, is excellent. I especially like how you cut the Word and your explanations into short, manageable chunks.

We, on the other hand, or perhaps I should say I, on the other hand, have only the Greek knowledge that comes from colloquial, everyday use inside the Greek Orthodox community. I know the grammatical terms but they don't figure much in how I understand the Word. My understanding is simply part of my life in Christ in this community.

It's helpful, to see what someone outside the community that still thinks in Greek has to say about it, and how close we actually are.

Jason said...


I always appreciate your comments here. You flatter me though. I really don't think in Greek. I can read it OK with helps, but I think Erasmus was on to something when he polished his Greek while studying with refugees from the fall of Constantinople.