We have some growing to do.
We’re not there yet. Even Paul says that he’s not where he needs to be (Php 3.12), and that he knows “in part” (1Co 13.12).
Paul now gives us our response—the medicine we’re supposed to take. In verse 14, he begins with the negative—“Stop this practice”; and then, in verse 15, he gives us the positive—“Here’s what you can do about it.” Today’s post focuses on verse 14.
“As a result, we are no longer to be children, tossed here and there by waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming” (Ep 4.14).
God’s people are supposed to stop being children.
Now, I should note that there’s nothing defective about a child’s being a child. We all start out as children, and for a time that’s the right and natural place to be. We love children’s simplicity, and joy, and insight. Social media is filled with videos of children’s delightfulness.
Jesus even said that we grownups need to become like children, in some sense, before we can enter the kingdom of heaven (Mt 18.3-4; 19.14). The simple trust of a child for his parent is a powerful thing.
But children aren’t supposed to stay children. They’re supposed to grow up.
Specifically, they’re supposed to outgrow
Paul describes a boat, “tossed here and there by waves,” at the mercy of its circumstances. Children can be like that. We all know that if one child in the church nursery starts to cry, we need to get him out of there fast, or else before long every child will be crying, and the more part will know not wherefore they are come together.
We’re supposed to get over our childlike tendency to be governed by what’s going on around us.
I think of that when I see my friends on social media given over to the Outrage of the Day. Somebody somewhere decides what we’re all going to be upset about this time, and we follow like sheep, sharing posts on issues about which we know nothing but immediately have an opinion. I saw a meme the other day that said something to the effect of, “And just like that everybody went from being expert epidemiologists to being experts in international relations.”
Paul’s context is more specific than just general inconsistency; he’s speaking specifically about “every wind of doctrine,” or teaching, specifically teaching about the faith. I have known people—and still do—who take up every half-witted heresy that comes down the pike. It’s like distortions of Scripture get all knotted up in their brains and just hang out together like they’re the last great hope of mankind.
We need to do better. We need to develop adult judgment—wisdom—that prevents us from being tossed around like that.
Paul changes his image in the middle of the verse. He moves from natural forces—waves and winds—to moral ones—“by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming.”
The fact is that in a morally influenced world, the things calling for our attention are not always neutral distractions. Often they’re the schemes of people with evil intent. The distractors are up to something.
I’ve mentioned the delightfulness of a child’s naivete. Decades ago Johnny Carson was interviewing a boy, and the child pretty much took over the interview. He asked Johnny to do a magic trick for him, and Johnny obliged. The look of wonder on the boy’s face was pure innocence, just delightful. He really thought that quarter had come out of his own ear.
But again, children should grow up. Naivete is not a virtue in adults. We shouldn’t be buying what the ne’er-do-wells are selling. We should know the Scripture—and the world—better than that.
This post has been pretty negative, because this verse is negative. Next time we’ll look at the positive side.
Photo by Francesco Ungaro on Unsplash