August 26, 2021 • Life for Leaders
Scripture – Ephesians 4:31-32 (NRSV)
Put away from you all bitterness and wrath and anger and wrangling and slander, together with all malice, and be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ has forgiven you.
Sometimes it’s good to take stock of our lives, to prayerfully look at ourselves with courageous honesty. Ephesians 4:31 can help us to do this. This verse encourages us to see if we have within ourselves any bitterness, wrath, anger, wrangling, slander, or malice. May God help us see ourselves truly so that he might help us to be free from anything that would keep us from becoming more like Christ.
There are times when we need to take stock of our lives. Perhaps we’re facing a job transition or a challenging relationship. Perhaps we’ve done something that has brought negative consequences. Perhaps we’ve attended a memorial service and have begun thinking about the measure of our own lives. In these and so many other contexts, we stop to reflect on our lives, to pay attention to how we’re living, to be honest with ourselves about the good and the bad.
Ephesians 4:31 invites us to take stock of our lives in this way. This verse lists five specific attitudes or behaviors that we should put away, concluding with a blanket statement about putting away “all malice.” Even the relatively short list of wrongs in verse 31 can help us see ourselves more clearly so that we might live more fully as new people in Christ.
My suggestion is that you take the list of wrongs in Ephesians 4:31 and use it as a magnifying glass to examine your life. Ask the Holy Spirit to show you things you need to see. If you recognize one of these shortcomings in yourself, take time to confess it to the Lord and to seek forgiveness. Then, ask the Lord if there is anything you need to do differently or any amends you need to make.
P.S. – I wouldn’t ask you to do anything I wouldn’t do myself, by the way. In writing this devotion, I used Ephesians 4:31 to prayerfully examine my life. Without going into embarrassing detail, I can see where a root of bitterness might be growing in me. (The phrase “root of bitterness” comes from Hebrews 12:15, by the way.) It’s just a small root right now. No big plant or sour fruit. But I have acknowledged it to myself and to the Lord, asking for God to pluck it up. I will also be attentive in the future to signs that this root is still there and growing.
So, now it’s your turn.
Bitterness: Are you holding on to bitterness? Have you allowed wrongs done to you to remain in your heart, leaving the sour taste of unforgiveness?
Rage and anger: Are you prone to excessive anger? Do you express your anger in ways that hurt others or even yourself? Does your anger keep you from having healthy relationships with colleagues, your boss, neighbors, or family members?
Brawling and slander: Do you use words to hurt others, both in their presence and behind their backs? Do you tend to say things at work that put down your coworkers? Do you say things that later on you wish you could retract?
Every form of malice: Are there other actions or attitudes in your life that cause pain and division in your relationships?
As you recognize behaviors in your life that are not so good, confess them to the Lord and ask for forgiveness.
Gracious God, thank you for making me new in Christ. Thank you for the call and opportunity to put off my old self and put on my new self. Lord, I know there are pieces of my old self still hanging around me. Some of these show up on the list in Ephesians 4:31. So as I take stock of my life I offer these moral failures to you, asking you not only to forgive me, but also to help me take off these parts of my old self so I can put on my new self more completely. Amen.
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Find all Life for Leaders devotions here. Explore what the Bible has to say about work at the unique website of our partners, the High Calling archive, hosted by the Theology of Work Project. Reflection on today’s Life for Leaders theme can be found here: Moving Shadows
Dr. Mark D. Roberts is a Senior Strategist for Fuller’s Max De Pree Center for Leadership, where he focuses on the spiritual development and thriving of leaders. He is the principal writer of the daily devotional, Life for Leaders, and the founder of the De Pree Center’s Flourishing in the Third Third of Life Initiative. Previously, Mark was the Executive Director of the De Pree Center, the lead pastor of a church in Southern California, and the Senior Director of Laity Lodge in Texas. He has written eight books, dozens of articles, and over 2,500 devotions that help people discover the difference God makes in their daily life and leadership. With a Ph.D. in New Testament from Harvard, Mark teaches at Fuller Seminary, most recently in his D.Min. cohort on “Faith, Work, Economics, and Vocation.” Mark is married to Linda, a marriage and family counselor, spiritual director, and executive coach. Their two grown children are educators on the high school and college level.