Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil.
When I was in high school, I became enthralled by a statement attributed to the Greek philosopher Socrates. In the Apology, written by Plato, Socrates said, “The unexamined life is not worth living” (38a). In context, this statement formed part of Socrates’s unsuccessful attempt to defend himself from the charges that led to his death. I suppose the life-and-death circumstances surrounding this quotation inspired me. But, most of all, I was in a season of life when I was beginning to think seriously about my identity, future, and purpose. I needed to examine my life.
In fact, I wrote my college application essay based on the idea that “The unexamined life is not worth living.” I can’t remember everything I wrote in that essay. But I do remember claiming that I had in fact examined my life. As a seventeen-year-old, I wrote proudly “I know myself” in response to another of Socrates’s famous sayings, “Know thyself.” In retrospect, I’m shocked that the college admissions folk accepted me in spite of my juvenile self-confidence. But, I expect my essay wasn’t the only one to make them smile.
When I wrote that essay, I did not realize that I could have quoted from Ephesians in addition to Socrates. Ephesians 5:15 begins, “Be very careful, then, how you live.” A more literal translation of the original Greek might read, “Examine carefully how you are living.” Sounds quite a bit like Socrates, doesn’t it? This verse doesn’t tell us to live carefully so much as it exhorts us to pay close attention to how we’re living. It wants us to examine our lives so that we might live more intentionally and more fully.
I need this exhortation. I wouldn’t be surprised if you do too. It is so easy for me to live at a quick pace, to speak without thinking, to rush from one thing to another. I can be in “go mode” for days at a time without stopping long enough to catch my breath, not to mention examine my life. I need, on a regular basis, to stop, to step back, to think, to reflect, to pay attention to how I’m living. I need to think about my choices, my values, my habits, my commissions and omissions. I need to look at my life in light of God’s intentions for me. Am I making the most of the time God has entrusted to me?
God’s version of time management doesn’t begin with making plans or creating a to-do list. Rather, it begins with careful, prayerful attention. In upcoming Life for Leaders devotions we’ll think together about how we can pay close attention to our lives. For now, you may wish to consider the following questions.
Something to Think About:
How often do you take time to think about how you are living?
Do you do this on a regular basis? If so, why? If not, why not?
What helps you to examine your life?
Something to Do:
See if you can set aside a half hour today or tomorrow to examine your life. There are many ways to do this, of course. I’d encourage you to start simply. Quiet your body, mind, and heart. Then ask yourself, “How am I living? How am I doing with my life?” Pay attention to what comes up in you. Don’t screen out things. Ask the Lord to help you see yourself and your life clearly.
Gracious God, thank you for the exhortation to examine accurately how I am living. I find it so easy to rush around like a crazy person, living according to all sorts of expectations and standards, but without really thinking about whether I am living well. Help me, I pray, to take time to examine my life. By your Spirit, show me the truth about how I’m living. Help me to be honest with myself and with you, and to begin to make any necessary adjustments. May my whole life be fruitful as I live in faithfulness to your calling. Amen.