Colossians 4:5-6 (NKJV)
5Walk in wisdom toward those who are outside, redeeming the time. 6Let your speech always be with grace, seasoned with salt, that you may know how you ought to answer each one.
In closing his letter to the Colossians, Paul urges a number of common graces upon the believers in Colossae. He knew that they would be tempted in the cosmopolitan and corrupt city of Colossae to retreat into a holy huddle and be cranky and uptight. Hence, he imparts to them, and to us, some closing words of counsel, that guide both our actions and our speech.
Regarding our actions, Paul urges us to “walk in wisdom toward those who are outside” and to “redeem the time.” In other words, Paul commands us to follow the exhortations to wisdom found in Proverbs and other books, particularly in light of our calling to be witnesses for Christ and of the brevity of time that the Lord has allotted to each of us on earth. We are to use the gifts and talents that the Lord has given us for the advance of His kingdom and the good of our neighbors.
This other oriented focus continues in Paul’s exhortation regarding our speech. “Let your speech always be with grace, seasoned with salt, that you may know how you ought to answer each one.” Elsewhere he urges us to speak in such a way that it “gives grace to those who hear” (Eph 4:29). Our speech, Paul tells us, is not primarily to serve ourselves but others.
And so, what do these exhortations mean for us? First, they remind us that Paul saw no contrast between the Proverbs of Solomon and the Gospel of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. So let us be diligent to have these Proverbs dwell in our hearts and minds. Let us teach them to our children and grandchildren that they might learn what it means to walk in wisdom toward those who are outside and to redeem the time.
Second, Paul is validating the old-fashioned concept of good manners. Manners are simply patterns of behavior that attempt to put others at ease by considering their interests as more important than our own. Opening the doors for ladies, making eye contact, saying hello and goodbye, saying thank you and you’re welcome – we should view all these things as attempts to apply Paul’s admonition to let our conduct be characterized by wisdom and our speech be seasoned with salt.
So consider some practical implications of Paul’s admonitions. Today we find ourselves in a new facility that, Lord willing, we will be able to enjoy for a couple months. As guests in this facility, we need to demonstrate good manners. And so, children, you shouldn’t be climbing on the furniture, snooping in spaces that are off limits, or running wild around the hallways. Don’t touch things that aren’t yours and be careful to treat everything as though it were quite precious. We are being given the privilege of meeting here and need to exercise good manners in the way we use the facility.
And you, parents, take responsibility for your children. Watch over them with all diligence and teach them the importance of manifesting good manners in their treatment of this place. Fathers, in particular, be engaged with your children. But don’t do this in such a way that you too violate the stricture to have your speech seasoned with grace. Don’t yell and scream at your children because you have failed to train them in good manners. Instilling manners into our children is not done primarily on Sunday morning – it must be happening all week. And so the exhortation to you parents is to impart the grace of good manners to your children – don’t rob them. “He also who is slack in his work,” Solomon writes, “Is brother to him who destroys” (Prov 18:9). So take the time to impart these courtesies to your kids.
Walk in wisdom, redeem the time, speak with grace – these are the reminders that Paul gives to the Colossians and to us. So reminded how we as a people have failed to fulfill these things, let us kneel and confess our sin and weakness to our Father seeking His forgiveness.