But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God’s holy people. Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking, which are out of place, but rather thanksgiving. For of this you can be sure: No immoral, impure or greedy person—such a person is an idolater—has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God. Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of such things God’s wrath comes on those who are disobedient. Therefore do not be partners with them.
Take a look at these verses again; see the things that Paul is telling us not to do? What is the common thread between all of them?
Exactly, good work!
They are all self-centered. The things Paul tells us we should do are all outwardly focused. Yes dear reader, that is how these verses fit into the larger context here… and Paul’s theme continues on to the next batch of verses that we’ll look at next time.
That is the most important part about this short text, it is the main lesson here, and now that I have done my teaching duty, I have a couple of observations of a slightly more “advanced” nature that may not be for the faint of heart.
In verse 3, Paul refers to “sexual immorality” and “greed”. These are the most obviously self-centered things he mentions… and oddly in today’s world they are the most controversial. We live in a time when we can’t, as a culture, define sexual immorality, because the word “immorality” implies that there is a standard of conduct beyond the statutes adopted by the government. Nobody would have been concerned with that before the 20th century, and “morality” was even a highly prized virtue at one time, but sadly, that time has passed, and now we seem to think, as a society, that anything that is legal in a court of law is just fine, but that is a bald-faced lie! Human governments decide what they will permit, but they cannot over rule Almighty God. If you are tempted to argue with me on this point, just remember that the Nazi Holocaust was all perfectly legal, as were most of the outrages of history.
Yet Paul’s point here is not based upon a legal issue, for Paul’s focus is not legal or transactional; it is entirely relational. You see the real danger to the believer in things like immorality and greed comes from the fact that these impulses, unchecked, are very strong indeed, and can pull a man or woman completely away from their relationship with Christ. In fact, a person falling into this kind of trap can be pulled so far away from His loving arms that they may not be able to return, assuring their destruction…
In verse 4, Paul tells us that obscenity, foolish talk and coarse joking are “out of place” and I think many will also understand this in a transactional sense. It is important that we all recognize that sin and its consequence isn’t the point, for remember that Paul is writing to Christians whose sins are forgiven. However, the way we talk reveals a great deal about the way we think, for if we speak in a sloppy and undisciplined way, the chances are that our thinking is sloppy and undisciplined as well, and thus if we are in the habit of speaking in a way that is far from reflecting our relationship with Christ, then the chances are very good that we do not have a healthy relationship with Him. Now obviously I’m not saying that we can engage in pious talk and fool God into thinking we are pious; we probably won’t fool anyone around us either. Paul is trying to teach us that if our talk is “out of place” our thinking probably is as well, and we are on a slippery slope with our faith.
We need to be more focused on our relationship with Jesus Christ; all of us! Can we just change our thinking and living entirely on own power? Maybe, maybe not. If we are waiting for the Holy Spirit to jump into the fray and zap us with perfection however, we’ll be waiting for a very long time, because that isn’t how it works. You see, the Holy Spirit is waiting for us to make the first step. He has given us the instruction to make an effort; you’ve just read it.
We make the effort, we make a commitment and seek His strength and His presence and He sustains us through the process; that’s how it works.