In closing his letter to the Colossians, Paul urges a number of common graces upon the believers in Colossae. Knowing that they would be tempted in the cosmopolitan and corrupt city of Colossae to retreat into a holy huddle and be cranky and uptight, Paul imparts to them some closing words of counsel about their actions and their speech.
In regard to our actions, Paul commands us to “walk in wisdom” and to “redeem the time.” Paul urges us to follow the exhortations to wisdom found in Proverbs and other books, particularly in light of the brevity of our lives and the time that the Lord has allotted to each of us on earth. We are to use the gifts and talents that the Lord has afforded us to the best of our ability and for the benefit of others.
This other oriented focus continues in Paul’s exhortation regarding our speech. “Let your speech always be with grace, seasoned with salt, that you may know how you ought to answer each one.” Elsewhere he gives the same basic command urging us to speak in such a way that it “gives grace to those who hear.” Our speech, Paul tells us, is not primarily to serve ourselves but to serve others.
And so, what do these exhortations mean for us? First, they remind us that Paul saw no contrast between the Gospel of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and the wisdom literature, like the Proverbs, in the Old Testament. After all, these words that Paul entrusts to the Colossians were nothing new. Solomon had given the same basic exhortation years before.
“24 Put away from you”, Solomon counsels, “a deceitful mouth,
And put perverse lips far from you.
25 Let your eyes look straight ahead,
And your eyelids look right before you.
26 Ponder the path of your feet,
And let all your ways be established.
27 Do not turn to the right or the left;
Remove your foot from evil.”
Notice then that when Paul urges us to walk in wisdom, he is commanding us to have these proverbs dwell in our hearts and minds. Let us teach them to our children and grandchildren that they might learn what it means to walk in wisdom and redeem the time.
Second, in this passage Paul is endorsing the old-fashioned concept of good manners. For what are manners but simple patterns of behavior that attempt to put others at ease and consider their well-being as more important than our own? Opening the doors for ladies, saying hello and goodbye, saying thank you and you’re welcome – we should view all these trifles as attempts to incarnate Paul’s admonition to let our conduct be characterized by wisdom and our speech seasoned with salt.
There is one particular way in which we can be practicing Paul’s wisdom every week as we gather together. We worship in a facility that is not our own but which we are being permitted to use. As guests in this facility, we need to demonstrate good manners. And so, children, you shouldn’t be climbing over the furniture, playing with things that aren’t ours, or carrying your donuts outside the eating area.
And you, parents, take responsibility for your children. Watch over them with all diligence and teach them the importance of manifesting good manners in their treatment of this facility. But let us not do this in such a way that we too violate the command to have our speech seasoned with grace. We mustn’t yell and scream at our children because we have failed to train them in good manners. Instilling manners into our children is not done on Sunday morning – it must be happening all week so that Sunday morning is nothing new. So the exhortation comes to us: we must impart the grace of manners to our children.
Walk in wisdom, redeem the time, speak with grace – these are the reminders that Paul gives to the Colossians and to us. Reminded how we as a people have failed to fulfill these things, let us kneel and confess this to our Father seeking His forgiveness.