Ephesians 5:3-4 “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.”
We can identify three behaviors that don’t fit the people who belong to God in this list. First is sexual immorality. “Impurity” falls into the same category. This is a catch-all way of describing every use and abuse of the sexual union. Rather than taking an hour to discuss all those possible sins, why not just remember that we belong to God? He has cleaned us up and given us a purpose, including this part of our lives.
The sum total of the world’s thinking on this topic has to do with personal pleasure. Pleasure is certainly part of God’s blessing, but it is not his purpose. God’s purpose has to do with creating a new generation–producing children. It has to do with cementing a relationship, uniting the unique gifts of a man and a woman to create a stable family–and thus a stable society. This happens only in heterosexual marriages based on life-long commitments. Everything else obscures God’s purpose for sexual union or undercuts it. Everything else is out of place for the people that God has claimed as his own.
Next Paul lists “greed.” Greed is another sin that fails to recognize that God has given us, and our material wealth, a purpose. He gives money and possessions to provide genuine needs, not to create huge stockpiles that may prevent others from having their needs met.
One place we see this illustrated is in some of the “hoarders” shows you see on reality TV. These people collect and collect and can never let anything go. Open the front door of their homes, and every inch of floor space is covered three, four, five feet high with things. You have to climb up on top of the pile to enter the house. You can’t even stand up straight because you are so close to the ceiling.
Who is being served by all this stuff? Who is being served by the junk collecting dust in our storage units? Who is being served by the unopened boxes stuffed into our garages? How many TV’s can we watch? How many cars can we drive? How many rooms can we live in? How many shoes can we wear? Granted, we may need a nest egg to retire someday, but how much money is hoarded when it could be helping someone? As children of God we need to learn how to say, “Enough.” Accumulating huge stockpiles makes no sense when we have a heavenly Father providing for us.
With three terms Paul addresses sins of the mouth: “…obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking.” Why should perversions of sex be funny? Does that kind of humor build our respect and appreciation for God’s good gifts in marriage and family? No, it lays the groundwork for adopting ideas about these things that are in conflict with God’s will. It has to be out of place for members of God’s family.
In place of all this Paul urges “thanksgiving.” Thankful people see the good and wholesome gifts our Lord has given. There is nothing for which we are more thankful than his forgiveness for these very sins. He has not rejected us for misusing our bodies, our possessions, or our mouths. In Jesus, he has cleansed us. He has reclaimed us. He has enlightened our minds and changed our hearts to perceive that his plan and purpose for our behavior is better, and then blessed us to enjoy the pleasant fruits of that way of life.
In his love, God has shown his people a better way. That way does not include a life with no boundaries for sex, wealth, or speech.