The church's ethical "body language" - Part 2

When we are owned by Jesus Christ, we no longer desire to communicate sinfully. The church ought to be known as the most ethical family in the community. Last week we learned how this plays out in two areas - speaking truth and addressing anger. Biblical anger can become unbiblical over time. Things in the body of Christ can disappoint you, but they need to be addressed. We are all fellow saints.


We must be mindful of these things. What seem to be the simplest issues can dismantle churches. These ethical instructions are about our unity, built on a foundation of love. Obedience pleases God and ultimately displays the Gospel in our community. Let's look at two more commands:

Be Hardworking and Benevolent (verse 28)

This is a very straightforward instruction, but it is hard to do. Stealing was a real issue for the Ephesians, most of whom were seasonal workers. Because they did not manage well the money they earned during the [harvest] season, they later stole to provide themselves with basic needs. Paul was telling them simply, "Stop it." There is no place in God's people for stealing.

Paul also presents a "put on" to replace this "put off." We must work hard and manage our money well. The word for "work" in this verse literally pictures scraping the skin off your knuckles - anything you can do to provide for your family. We must also be satisfied with our basic needs. In reality, not many of us are scraping by with just enough food, shabby clothes, and a broken-down house.

There is even farther to go in the positive of this command. The goal is not affluence but doing what is good, sharing with others who have need. The Bible even holds up examples of those who were still benevolent when living with only their needs being met (see the story of the Macedonians in 2 Cor. 8-9). They were such good stewards of what they did have that they were able to respond to the pressing need of the Jerusalem church. And yet we have trouble giving out of our excess! Surely there is some growing for us to do.

Many of us might say, "this doesn't apply to me - I don't steal." But are you giving as God requires? Malachi 3:8-10 says it is possible to rob God by refusing to give joyfully and sacrificially. There are several situations in which people may not give; but in all of these instances, there is really no excuse. Giving to God is not expendable; it is part of worship. And by His grace, you can.

Be Relational (verses 29-32)

The new nature nurtures restored relationships, and this passage is speaking to those within the local church. As we put off the sins of our former nature, we demonstrate the new nature with our words and our actions.

The overall command to be relational has four parts:

  • Avoid Unnecessary Controversy (verse 29). Sometimes conflict is necessary in the church; controversy is that which unnecessarily divides relationships.
  • Be Encouraging (verse 29). We need encouragement from our family in Christ because what we encounter the rest of the week is often not very encouraging! We are to build each other up in a timely manner that gives healing. We can impart grace as God's mouthpieces.
  • Practice Personal Self-Governance (verse 30-31). Christians must refrain from resentment, slandering others, festering anger and that which results in outbursts. There is no need for shouting amidst the church.
  • Be Forgiving (verse 32). God's people are kind; they are merciful to those who have fallen and love to forgive. Forgiveness means you do not constantly think about how the other person did wrong to you; you do not talk about it; and you do not bring it up in their face.

Application Points

  • Did any part of "Be Hardworking and Benevolent" convict you? Have you stolen? Are you giving joyfully and sacrificially to God? Dig into the cross-references below and let God change your heart and then your behavior.
  • Spiritually meaningful relationships enable us to be a brighter light outside the church. What speech patterns do you need to "put off"? How can you improve in maintaining relationships that the Spirit has unified?
  • Try making this a new goal: Every Sunday, find someone to encourage.

Tools for Further Study

Cross References to Explore:
  • Exodus 20:15 - The 8th Commandment.
  • 1 Corinthians 10:13 - The temptation to steal is only human. But we can resist.
  • Genesis 3:17-19 - God's covenant with Adam was to work.
  • Philippians 2:11-13, 1 Timothy 6:6-10 - We can be content with our basic needs.
  • 2 Corinthians 8-9 - Macedonian example of being benevolent out of their poverty.
  • Galatians 6:10 - The priority of sharing our resources, making sure everyone's needs are cared for.
  • Malachi 3:8-10 - Are you robbing God?
  • Matthew 6:25-34, Psalm 37:25 - Giving is an issue of trust.
  • Ephesians 2:10 - Walk in obedience to the works God has prepared for you, for the sake of your soul.
  • Philippians 2:22-30 and 4:10-19 - The bigger picture: giving provides for the basic need of the church, which is to propagate the Gospel.
  • Psalm 104:23, Proverbs 28:19, Prov. 6:6-11, Exodus 20:9 - Commands to work.
  • Galatians 6:1-2, Matthew 18:15-17, 1 Timothy 5:19-21 - How to deal with necessary conflict in the church.
  • Hebrews 10:24-25 - We meet together to encourage one another.
  • Ephesians 2:18 and 22, Ephesians 4:3-4 - Divisive speech grieves the Holy Spirit because He creates unity.
  • Colossians 3:12-13 - Similar list of Christian virtues.
  • Galatians 6:1-2, 2 Corinthians 5:21 - We love to forgive because we've been forgiven.
A Hymn to Encourage: "Tis So Sweet to Trust in Jesus"

'Tis so sweet to trust in Jesus,
And to take Him at His Word;
Just to rest upon His promise,
And to know, "Thus says the Lord!"

Jesus, Jesus, how I trust Him!
How I've proved Him o'er and o'er
Jesus, Jesus, precious Jesus!
O for grace to trust Him more!

O how sweet to trust in Jesus,
Just to trust His cleansing blood;
And in simple faith to plunge me
'Neath the healing, cleansing flood!

Yes, 'tis sweet to trust in Jesus,
Just from sin and self to cease;
Just from Jesus simply taking
Life and rest, and joy and peace.

I'm so glad I learned to trust Thee,
Precious Jesus, Savior, Friend;
And I know that Thou art with me,
Wilt be with me to the end.

Quotes to Ponder:

"Christians are to achieve that which is good not only with their mouths, but with their hands."