Do Not Be Foolish

September 30, 2019 • Life for Leaders

Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is.

Ephesians 5:17

When I read Ephesians 5:17, I hear echoes from my past. “Mark, don’t be foolish,” my mom would say. Or she’d declare: “Mark, use your head.” I’d hear these exhortations when I was tempted to do something unwise, something I knew I shouldn’t do. Perhaps I was mad at a friend who had hurt my feelings and was eager to get revenge. “Don’t be foolish,” my mom would advise me. Sometimes I’d follow her advice; sometimes not. But, as I grew up, I realized that acting foolishly might feel good for a moment, but it generally led to uncomfortable consequences, if not outright disastrous ones.

Black and white image of a trees out of focus in someone's confused visionWhen my mom said, “Mark, don’t be foolish,” she wasn’t giving me precise orders. She wasn’t telling me exactly how to live my life. Nor was she suggesting that I was a simpleton who needed parental guidance all the time in order to live well. On the contrary, “Don’t be foolish” assumed that I had a choice and that I could make the right choice if I thought carefully about my actions. “Don’t be foolish” was directive, but not debilitating. It was empowering, even encouraging. I could use my head. I could do what was right.

Ephesians 5:17 reads, “Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is.” According to earlier sections of Ephesians, we live in days dominated by evil, and we once lived under the power of darkness; but though we were once governed by our own sinful desires, Christ has set us free. Though him, we can live, “not as unwise but as wise” (Ephesians 5:15). We can choose, with God’s help, not to be foolish.

Of course, as fallible people, we won’t always make wise choices. We will be tempted by folly and sometimes give in. But as we live in Christ, as we are guided by the Spirit, as we are engaged with a community of Christ followers, we can learn to say “no” to foolishness and “yes” to wisdom. This is good news, news I need to hear today. What about you?

Something to Think About:

When you were growing up, did you ever hear something like “Don’t be foolish” from your parents or other adults in your life?

When are you tempted to be foolish today?

What helps you to choose wisdom over folly?

Something to Do:

As you go through this day, or tomorrow if you’re doing this devotion at night, remind yourself of the simple injunction: “Don’t be foolish.” See if you are tempted to do or say something that you can choose rather to avoid.


Gracious God, thank you for this reminder from Ephesians: “Don’t be foolish.” I confess, Lord, that sometimes I am tempted to ignore this advice. Especially when I’m angry or hurt, folly looks pretty inviting. Forgive me when I indulge my reckless desires. Help me, I pray, to know when I need to step back, to stop reacting and think. By your grace, help me not to be foolish, but to choose the way of wisdom.

Even this day, Lord, as I do my work, as I interact with my colleagues, as I spend money, as I make plans, may I not be foolish. Give me wisdom, I pray, as well as the ability to act on it. Amen.

Explore more at The High Calling archive, hosted by the Theology of Work Project:
The “Wise” Fools



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