5 Walk in wisdom toward outsiders, making the best use of the time. 6 Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person. ESV
“Outsiders” are those who have not yet received Jesus Christ as the Lord of their lives. You may not be very comfortable thinking about those who don’t follow Jesus as “outsiders”, but that is who they are. Jesus used the same word in Mark 4:11: “To you has been given the secret of the kingdom of God, but for those outside everything is in parables…”.
Jesus doesn’t want anyone to be outside of his kingdom. Sadly, millions refuse his offer of forgiveness. Your calling, as an ambassador of the King and his kingdom, is to show outsiders the same kind of grace and mercy that you were shown when you were an outsider. Who were the saints who led you to come in from the dark? Remember how they acted and how they spoke?
You are instructed to do two things in v5. You are to act wisely toward everyone who does not know Jesus and you are to make the best use of the time you have with them. You are to carefully consider how you are living your life, especially around those who don’t yet know Jesus. This command doesn’t mean that you have to act perfectly and never make a mistake. One of the most powerful things you can do is to apologize when you sin against them. For example, you might get pulled into the office chatter putting down a fellow employee or a manager. If that happens, go back and apologize for what you said to all who need to hear it.
To be able to act wisely and leverage the opportunities you have, you will need to be filled with the full knowledge of God’s will to know how to react and respond. Does that ring a bell? Use the prayer from 1:9-12 to ask the Lord to give you his Spiritual insights so that you can say and do what is wise and appropriate for the moment. Ask him to strengthen you with all power according to his glorious might so that you will have all the endurance you need to live wisely each day, especially when a challenging situation arises. Keep asking your Father to strengthen you in your inner being so that you will have all the patience you need, especially with that outsider that you find so challenging to like. Finally, never stop asking your Father for his strength so that you can be joyful as you live among outsiders, thanking him that he has brought you in from the dark (1:13 ).
Making the best use of your time with those who are far from God can be very intimidating. But you must not feel like you have to walk around on pins and needles out of fear you’ll mess up and damn that person to the eternal abyss! Your Father doesn’t want you to be afraid of saying or doing the wrong thing. He wants you to live in the freedom that he has purchased for you, relying on his Spirit within you to give you the wisdom you need with just the right words. So relax as you make the most of each opportunity. Rely on him! Your Father wants you to trust in him with confidence that his Spirit will intervene in and through you to bring about his purposes.
This is what life will be like as you seek first and set your mind on the things above (3:1-2). It is God himself who will give you the desire to live wisely so that you leverage your time with outsiders. And he will also give you the power to act appropriately, so that they can see Jesus in your actions and hear him through your words (Philippians 2:12-13). Seeking Jesus’ perspective first and foremost comes through abiding prayer, like you read about previously in 4:2. Learning to discipline yourself to have on-going conversations with your Father is how you set your mind on his kingdom.
In v6, Paul carried this thought further. Words are very important and very powerful. You can still remember harsh words that deeply wounded you. Hopefully, you can also reflect back to kind and encouraging words that someone with influence spoke to you. This verse commands you to make sure that your words are always filled with grace and mercy towards outsiders. Jesus taught you to be “wise as serpents and innocent as doves” (Matthew 10:16b). To do this, you will need God’s wisdom and strength flowing through you.
To be careful with words means that you are quick to listen and slow to speak (James 1:19). Make sure you are even slower to text and post! Let your blood pressure return to normal before you give a reply. The acronym W.A.I.T. may help you: Why Am I Talking? Speaking when you are angry or upset can lead to deep wounds that will need multiple apologies. Taking the time and energy to ask your Father for his help will keep you from speaking too quickly
One of the most powerful things you can do to another person is to genuinely listen to them. This is especially true of outsiders who may think you want to cram your faith down their throat. Before you ever talk to them about your faith in Jesus, show them the agapé love of Jesus. Value them as a person who was made in the image of God and seek to hear their heart.
Paul illustrated wise words as being seasoned with salt. Salt was widely used in the ancient world as a religious symbol of endurance and value. It was their primary preservative as well as a popular seasoning. Just the right amount of salt can have an amazing impact on a meal but too much will ruin it. It’s similar with your words. That is why you are instructed by God to be careful with what you say, when you say it and how you say it. Make sure you are hearing the other person first. They need to feel like they’ve been heard. When it is time for you to talk, sense the Spirit’s help as you rely on his power and wisdom to speak deliciously seasoned words.
Peter was inspired in a similar way: but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect… (1 Peter 3:15). Again, the way to tell someone about your hope in Christ with gentleness and respect is to be filled with the Spirit as you share. How do you get filled with the Spirit? Ask and keep on asking for the Father to fill you with the full knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and spiritual understanding. His Spirit will guide your spirit to have all the wisdom, love, gentleness and respect that you will need. Rely on your Father by staying in constant contact with him. Then you will live worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing him and your life will produce fruit that lasts. You will also grow in your understanding of God the Almighty. Staying in touch with the Father through prayer will result in the words of Christ dwelling richly in you and pouring out to your friends and colleagues who don’t yet know him. That is how you can make the best use of your time and seize the day.
- Begin flaring the 1:9 request to your Father as you get into conversations with outsiders, whether you talk about spiritual things or not.
- Study the prayer in Philippians 1:9-11 and begin asking the Father to make your love overflow more and more in knowledge and discernment. Focus on this prayer’s results in vs10-11.